The lives of Eastern Cape children with cancer have been made just a little brighter with the opening of the province’s first paediatric oncology unit in Port Elizabeth on April 1.
Each year, an estimated 400 children with cancer slip through the cracks in the healthcare system, with their illnesses either remaining undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or poorly treated.
Many of those who have been correctly diagnosed have had to travel, at great expense and effort, to other provinces to seek treatment.
The new oncology unit is based at Provincial Hospital and treats both private and public sector patients.
SPAR Eastern Cape was among the corporate and individual sponsors who stepped up to assist with sponsoring the renovations of the ward.
In the month leading up to the inauguration, more than 100 volunteers, including SPAR employees, gave of their time and energy to help with painting and decorating efforts. SPAR and Build It were right there with them, providing refreshments and painting tools to get the job done.
Various dignitaries and the real guests of honour – the patients and their families – enjoyed the celebrations when Eastern Cape MEC for health Dr Pumza Dyantyi officially opened the unit.
The excited children were also welcomed into their colourful new home from home with balloons and cupcakes.
According to paediatric oncologist Dr Johani Vermeulen, the new facilities were a welcome change from the cramped, makeshift conditions of the previous ward at Dora Nginza Hospital.
“We had to squeeze many patients into a ward made for six and some had to be hospitalised in other wards,” she said.
“Children who are getting chemotherapy do not have strong immune systems and it was not good for us to share wards and bathrooms with other sick kids.”
Aside from the happy patients and doctors, the unit will also feature a fulltime unit manager and social worker.
Igazi Foundation spokesman Cole Cameron said his organisation was deeply grateful and overwhelmed by the response of sponsors.
“We were blown away by the incredible generosity in money and time that helped us get this done.”
SPAR first got involved with the foundation last year, as title sponsor of the Jason Kieck fashion show, which benefits Igazi, said SPAR Eastern Cape marketing manager Abri Swart.
“We fell in love with the organisation because of the incredible work they do in changing the lives of children living with cancer.”
Swart said they hoped to be able to watch the unit, and its young patients, grow from strength to strength in the future.