Efforts to re-establish the iconic KwaZulu-Natal Children’s Hospital have received a major boost with the completion of another phase of renovations.

The hospital was built and opened in the 1920s but was later shut down by the apartheid government for serving children of all races.

In 2011, a non-profit organisation, the KwaZulu-Natal Children Trust, began a project to reopen and renovate the hospital with the support of the department of health — in a private-public partnership — and a host of other donors.

On Wednesday, the organisation officially opened two of the four newly renovated facilities: the Victor Daitz psychology centre and the centre for adolescent health. That takes the total of completed renovations to 65% of the hospital precinct.

“It was a four-part renovation. We now have a brand new therapy space that will be used by the physiotherapy team, a centre for adolescent health which was funded by the Elton John Aids Foundation, we have a brand new psychology centre that was funded by the Victor Daitz Foundation and the USAID-funded mothers’ lodge which is an accommodation facility for children, their caregivers and their mothers,” said Taryn Millar, CEO of the trust.

Anuschka Coovadia, chair of the trust, said: “We want to make sure that any child in KZN has access to the optimal healthcare services no matter the socioeconomic situation they may have been born into.”

The occasion was also a donor-appreciation event celebrating donors who have contributed to the renovations..

“We have donors who invested money and funding of brand new facilities, we have donors who supported us in kind with the donation of their time, goods and services, partners who have adopted the hospital as its CSI charities. We’re overwhelmed with the support we’re getting for this project,” she said.

One of the hospital’s long-term sponsors, Durban Girls’ College, has also come on board again through the Durban Girls’ College Alumni Association. The relationship between the college and the hospital dates back to the 1920s when the school funded one of the rooms which was subsequently named in its honour.

“In 2020 they approached me and asked if we would be interested in taking back that room and keeping it under our name and I jumped at the opportunity.

“I felt that continuing this legacy that was left behind in the 1920s by the founders of our school was something that we needed to do to revive one of Durban’s landmarks along the Golden Mile and lessen mental health challenges in South Africa,” said Trisha Parshotam, the Durban Girls’ College Alumni Association chair.

She said contributing to initiatives that deal with mental health development was the most meaningful contribution one could make after all the events and changes of the past few years.

“The room that we have is part of the mental rehabilitation centre but it still needs to be completed. We are very excited that after two years of hard work we managed to hand the cheque over, two months ago,” she said.

She said they contributed R80,000 for renovations to the room. She added fundraising was made online during the Covid-19 period.

As the trust pushed to complete the remainder of the renovations, Millar said the board of trustees had approved the fundraising strategy and more donors had came to the fore.

“ The next phase is the completion of the main hall hospital building which will function as our centre for community health. We have secured funding from the South African Muslim Charitable Trust,” Millar said.

She said the hospital was now an outpatient facility though it had already made great strides to service as many people as possible.

“We have a neuro-developmental assessment centre that has been operational since July 2013. It has seen more than 35,000 young patients since opening.

“We also have a new centre for adolescent health which opened during the course of last year. Since opening, the centre has seen well over 2,000 adolescent from the inner city precinct,” she said.

Millar said the project still needed funding to build an extension to add a psychiatric outpatient facility, a 10-bed child inpatient psychiatric ward and a 15-bed female inpatient psychiatric ward to their list of new facilities.


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