St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children (SJH), celebrated another milestone on Friday when the modernised Sunflower ward, was officially blessed. This is the third ward that has now been re-opened since a major R40 million renovation programme started nearly two years ago.

StJosephsHome-Sunflower-Ward-3The renovated Sunflower ward has been designed to accommodate patients between 0 and 18 years who have been referred from State Hospitals to SJH for rehabilitation. Since the rehab pilot project started nearly three years ago, nearly 170 children have benefitted from its rehab services which include physio-, speech-, and occupational therapy. The 14 member staff also include social work and counselling support.

“The 20-25 bed ward has been modernised and designed bearing in mind the complexity of the rehab conditions, the associated with high intensity nursing care and vulnerability of patients. Rehabilitation will become the main focus of this ward which is driven by a multi- disciplinary team.

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All staff members, including the nursing staff will collaborate in order to achieve optimal patient outcome goals. Specific ward programmes will be set up to facilitate practising of skills learnt within the therapeutic environment. Parental involvement and training will also be facilitated within the ward to help with transference of skills, “ Ms Thea Patterson, Director explained.

Some of the most common conditions treated, are traumatic brain injuries, burns conditions and cerebral palsy. The patients are mainly referred from state and district hospitals in the Cape Metro. In certain cases patients return after being discharged, for additional therapy. The predicted average stay is between 6 weeks to 6 months but most of the patients need about 6 months to recover. To date, a total of 164 patients have been admitted, while only 27 are still at SJH and receive ongoing rehabilitation input. The rest, except for five (social cases) have been discharged home or into alternative placement.

The two other wards which are already functional, are Sweet Basil and Daisy with a bed capacity of 55 beds.

Some of the exciting features are:

The wards have wide passages and small interior gardens;
Windows at child eye level with wide window sills and built in seating;
High roof windows which will treat the children to as spectacle of clouds and blue sky during the day, and stars at night;
An eco-friendly design using natural light, a natural flow of air to control temperature/ventilation- low sound proof ceilings to create a homely atmosphere;
More showers and fewer baths;
Special eco fire places;
Spacious rehabilitation areas and family visiting spaces;
Outside recreation spaces;
Adherence to the highest fire regulation specifications- making it one of the safest buildings in South Africa;
A deliberate change from the traditional institutionalised buildings to a more child friendly and homely design- beds are grouped in smaller units with extra space for storage for personal belongings.

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The R40 million project, ring fenced for the hospital and its patients, was made possible through a generous overseas donation and will take another six months to complete. With phase one completed, the other current renovations include the modernization of the remaining two other wards; the upgrade of the nurses’ home, parents’ accommodation and the reception/admin area. Provision is also made for the landscaping of the ward gardens and certain outside areas.

“We were fortunate to have had excellent input from architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and consultants. After a year of preparatory work, the renovations are nearly three quarters there and will be completed by end – 2016. We are confident that this will contribute considerably to the improvement of our current facilities which are nearly fifty years old!” Ms Patterson said.

Says project leader and architect Nicola Irving from Charlotte Chamberlain and Nicola Irving Architects (CCNIA): “Our aim was to change the character of St Joseph’s from an institutional to a safe and more intimate space where a child can be a child. We wanted to create playful spaces where a child will no longer feel anxious or scared. The building should embrace the child and encourage healing and wellness.”

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Challenges of running a 24/7 hospital in a safe environment, also required innovative thinking. When the actual construction started, contingency plans saw the conversion of the main hall into a “Florence Nightingale” type of ward, housing rows and rows of beds! Temporary passages were erected to redirect the “traffic flow” and isolate the children from the potentially hazardous demolitions. Protection of the children and staff was obviously of paramount concern. Every precaution had to be taken to ensure our safety and causing as little disruption to the functioning of the Home as possible.

Ms Patterson said that SJH is ideally positioned to take on the new challenge of intermediate care service, based on a proven record of looking after children with life threatening conditions. This is also in line with the Home’s strategic thrusts of remaining relevant and sustainable as a financially viable non- profit enterprise which will attract much needed funding from donors and Government alike.

St Joseph’s Home (SJH) for Chronically Ill Children is a registered non-profit organization and a unique in-patient facility in the country that provides a wide range of paediatric, intermediate health care and related services. This holistic approach includes among others, a rehabilitation project (pilot), a nursing school, St Joseph’s RC Primary School, a crèche and logistical and pastoral support to families.

Children at SJH have all been diagnosed with life threatening and life limiting illnesses and are from disadvantaged communities.