04/12/2016

New Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital

For over 15 years, I have been working as a surgeon at the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in the heart of Cape Town city centre.  Originally called "City Park Hospital", it was renamed in 2001. On Friday, I discharged my last patient from the old institution.  In the ward at 7 o'clock in the morning just as the hand over from the night staff to the day staff was occurring,  I couldn't help overhearing their conversation.  They were sad.  There was a feeling of the end of an era.

Last night, at a lavish, glittering function, the new hospital was officially opened.  It is in a slightly different, up and coming desirable address (on the foreshore) and promises to be a state of the art institution.  It will boast the first helipad with swift access to emergency services in the heart beat of town. The evening was dedicated to the extraordinary career of Chris Barnard with a documentary about the first heart transplant that was done at Groote Schuur Hospital 49 years ago.  His family, along with some of the original theatre team, received awards and were present together with Dr Friedland and Prof Nomafrench Mbombo MEC for Health who cut the ribbon.  The emphasis of the evening was on the future of cardiac transplantation. There was little time for reflection on what the hospital has achieved and on the many other medical services offered.

Our old hospital is not a beautiful building.  It has seen a lot of wear and tear over the years and is in
need of the upgrade.  What has made me proud to work there, however, is the attitude of the staff. It is a friendly hospital made up of people who care.  I am not just talking about the nurses.  I am talking about the porters, the admin staff, the management, the hostesses and other medical personnel.

The hospital I know is not a cardiac transplant hospital.  It is a multidisciplinary institution. On the surgical side, there are surgeons specialising in orthopaedics, urology (including robotic surgery), vascular procedures, ENT, neurosurgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, trauma, ophthalmology,  maxillofacial surgery and breast surgery.  There also is a successful renal transplant programme.  There are a number of obstetricians and gynaecologists with a specialised paediatric ICU.  On the non surgical side, there are many physicians each with their own areas of expertise.

The last few months have been very difficult and very busy.  I would like to thank my colleagues and patients for their patience.   Cape Town looks forward to explosive economic growth and welcomes developments that add lustre to the new glittering future.  It would be prudent to take time to reflect on what has been achieved through a multi-faceted team and ensure that the caring attitude is not lost.