Access to quality healthcare remains a key challenge for rural communities on the African continent. While several major cities in Africa are characterized by modernization and development, the 44,9% of the population who live in rural communities, seem to have been left behind. This presents a spatial challenge for communities who need to access quality basic services, such as healthcare. Over the last twenty years there has been a great push to ensure rural communities on the African continent have access to basic healthcare services, through the provision of mobile clinics. While these mobile clinics are critical in the reduction of child mortality, specialist care for these communities have been practically non-existent. On the African continent there are currently five specialist pediatric hospitals which services more than 450 million children. This crisis in healthcare, resulted in the establishment of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.
Once the hospital receives these referral patients, they will be able to house between 15 and 30 patients per day. This equates to more than 800 patients per month, and at least 9000 patients in a calendar year. This will substantially decrease the 50% survival rate in South Africa, and ensure that the 40% of children with cancer who do not receive specialist care, actually have access to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.
In South Africa alone, the survival rate of children with cancer is 50%, compared to 80% in the United Kingdom. This is primarily due to the fact that 40% of these children do not receive specialist cancer care. This was one the main reasons why Islamic Relief Worldwide, decided to fund the Oncology Unit of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH).This lack of access to specialist pediatric care has to be seen within the context of widespread poverty and inequality in Sub-saharan Africa. While significant developments are taking place within the region, the gap between rich and poor seems to be growing, with access to basic services for the poor, continuing to be limited. While Islamic Relief remains committed to working with these communities to address these pervasive and widespread social and economic challenges, the sponsorship of the oncology unit, was an investment in the 450 million children on the African continent, ensuring that they have access to specialist oncology services in rural and urban areas alike. NMCH therefore developed a unique referral system, where patients, irrespective of their location in southern Africa, can access the services of the hospital, by simply receiving a referral from their local GP. This referral system, will address the spatial challenge faced by rural communities, while simultaneously reaching more children across the region. In addition, it will start to bridge the gap between rich and poor, by providing the best quality healthcare services to all, irrespective if they can afford it. Once the hospital receives these referral patients, they will be able to house between 15 and 30 patients per day. This equates to more than 800 patients per month, and at least 9000 patients in a calendar year. This will substantially decrease the 50% survival rate in South Africa, and ensure that the 40% of children with cancer who do not receive specialist care, actually have access to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. While the hospital had it’s official opening in December 2016, it is expecting to have its first patients in May this year. The hospital has indicated that during the next three months, they will be working to refine this referral system to ensure priority is given to those who cannot afford it, while simultaneously recruiting top specialists for the oncology unit, to ensure the children receive the best cancer care possible.