A dream realized: Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital completed in Johannesburg

A group of girls in blue uniforms sing in front of a large Children's Hospital Trust sign.
On December 2, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust celebrated the completion of a new state-of-the-art hospital facility in Johannesburg. Photo: Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust

South Africa celebrated a milestone in healthcare last month with the completion of the long-anticipated Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) in Johannesburg. Mandela, who passed away in 2013, long dreamed of building a specialized hospital for children in his home country, according to his widow, Graҫa Machel. The new, 200-bed facility — including a 25-bed intensive care unit — is his dream brought to life.

“The Children’s Hospital is a monument of love, care and service from Madiba* himself,” said Machel, who serves as the chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust (NMCHT). The Trust was established in 2009 to raise funds and oversee construction of the facility.

Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust
Prior to the launch event, groups of local children were invited to the hospital for a fun play day to give them a close up experience in the new hospital facility.
Photo: Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust

Located on the campus of Witwatersrand University on land donated by the school, the hospital is outfitted with the latest diagnostic and treatment equipment. Within easy distance of the campus’s medical college, it will serve as a teaching hospital and as such, will impact children’s lives beyond those treated at NMCH. Comprised of “7 Centers of Excellence,” each concentrating on treatment and research in a particular area, the hospital will enhance the medical field’s capacity to deal with pediatric cancers, heart, kidney, lung and other ailments.

Designed to feel light, bright and less intimidating or frightening for children, the building features child-friendly art along the corridors, and several internal and external courtyards.

Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust
Guests were treated to a sneak peek of the new hospital during a launch event in early December. The facility features kid-friendly, state-of-the-art equipment and beautiful spaces for patients to spend time between treatments.
Photo: Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust

“It is very impressive,” said Shannon Lawder, Mott Foundation’s Civil Society program director, after touring the facility. “It was so pleasant and attractive that at times, I had to remind myself that it was actually a hospital.”

Completion of the hospital building is the culmination of a 10-year fundraising campaign by the Trust. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation joined many others around the world in contributing to this successful project, granting $1 million to support construction. Mott also funded a feasibility study and other planning activities prior to groundbreaking. In total, more than $62 million was raised from private sources to build and equip the facility.

The Trust will now transition to preparations for admitting and treating patients, which is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2017. When fully operational, the hospital will employ approximately 150 doctors and 451 pediatric nursing professionals. According to NMCHT, the South African government has committed to covering the annual operating costs of the hospital. No child will ever be turned away for inability to pay.

“For all of us who knew Madiba, we knew he was happiest when he was healing little hearts,” said Nana Makgomola, Deputy Chairperson of the Trust. “This event, this moment, is a continuation of his love, and commitment to the welfare of South African children. It is another great milestone as we walk this path of hope and change together.”

* According to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Madiba is the name of Mandela’s clan. A clan name is much more important than a surname as it refers to the ancestor from which a person is descended. Using it to refer to him is a sign of respect and affection.