19 June 2024 | Story ANDRÉ DAMONS | Photo ANDRÉ DAMONS
Foldable beds
Prof Nicholas Pearce, Head of the UFS School of Clinical Medicine, Mr J Radebe, Acting nursing manager at the Universitas Academic Hospital, Dr Lizzy Tabane, Head of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr Deepa Alexander, Head: Clinical Unit Tertiary Paediatrics, and Prof Jan du Plessis, Head of the UFS Paediatric Oncology Unit, test out the new folding beds/chairs.

The Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of the Free State (UFS) together with two other donors donated foldable sleeping chairs (which are chairs during the day, and serve as beds at night) to the Universitas Academic Hospital’s paediatric wards intended for parents to stay overnight with their chronically ill children.

Dr Lizzy Tabane, Head of Paediatrics and Child Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences, says the department recently identified a need for the foldable visitor beds. These beds are designed to provide comfort and convenience to parents who need to be by their children’s side during hospital stays. This is particularly important for families from outside the Bloemfontein area.

The Relay Company, in association with Standard Bank and Biokinetics Association of South Africa (BASA), were the other sponsors who donated 15 beds to the paediatric wards.

Creating a supportive environment

The need for such accommodations, explains Dr Tabane, was necessary because parents often find it challenging to leave their sick children alone in the hospital. “By providing these foldable beds, we aim to create a more supportive and holistic environment where parents can rest and care for their children without the added stress of finding alternative sleeping arrangements at huge personal cost.

“It has been shown over many years and through research that children who are admitted to hospital do better when they are supported by a parent. Separation of children from their primary caregiver when they are ill has been discouraged, and we promote that the primary caregiver support the child through their hospital admission,” says Dr Tabane.

According to her, the benefits of the primary caregiver's presence during admission include the child’s anxiety decreases during the admission, the child’s recovery is expedited as well as the caregiver’s presence also assists the staff in caring for the child, including feeding, bathing, and keeping the child company during hospitalisation and treatment.

Prof Nicholas Pearce, Head of the School of Clinical Medicine, highlighted that the UFS, through Vision 130 promotes engaged scholarship to foster development, innovation, and advance citizenship and service for the public good. This project forms part of that engagement and Prof Pearce congratulated the Paediatric Department for this initiative.

Wards 10A and 10B

Children at Universitas Academic Hospital usually present with chronic illnesses that warrant long-term admissions, especially children with cancer and complex medical and surgical conditions in Ward 10A and Ward 10B admitting such children with their primary caregivers. The hospital has limited lodger sleeping facilities for mothers whose children are admitted. Because of the shortage of beds for these mothers to sleep in the wards with their children, they tend to be separated at night or sleep on chairs or on the floor beside the beds.

The Oncology Unit under Prof Jan du Plessis, who is also Head of the UFS Paediatric Oncology Unit, serves the Free State, Northern Cape, and Lesotho with state-of-the-art cancer treatment for children. Their admission tends to be prolonged, and because the treatment is very intensive and usually uncomfortable, the presence of primary caregivers next to the child is critical. Prof du Plessis appreciates the initiative in making the child and the caregiver’s stay as comfortable as possible.

The project to raise funding to upgrade the children’s wards at Universitas Academic Hospital was started many years ago by Prof André Venter, a former head of the Paediatric Department at the UFS and Universitas Hospital, through the Beds of Hope Foundation. Today's donation is mainly through the funding of that project. The fundraising is ongoing under Dr Tabane to improve the lives of the vulnerable children admitted to the hospital.

The CEO of Universitas Academic Hospital, Dr Eddie Mzangwa, was delighted to receive these much-needed beds to support patients and caregivers. 

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