Today is World Prematurity Day and Groote Schuur Hospital has lots to celebrate.
After many years, its crowded neonatal unit is finally being expanded.
Nurses breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday when it was announced that the ward will be expanded from having one quarter of a floor in the maternity unit to the entire floor.
One of the patients who received care in the neonatal unit was three-year-old Nawaal Geldenhys from Atlantis who was born prematurely and weighed just 760 grams at birth.
The girl fought for 91 days in hospital where she underwent surgery thrice when she developed necrotizing enterocolitis —an often fatal disease affecting premature babies.
Doctors say part of her intestine had become gangrenous from the disease, which meant that Nawaal had to be rushed to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital to undergo surgery.
Her mother Charlotte Geldenhys, 48, says she is happy her child was given a fighting chance to survive.
“I believe that every premature baby needs a safe place to stay if they can’t be in the womb anymore, this is very good because now more babies can be saved,” she said of the bigger unit.
The unit was built during the early 70s, but has not kept up with 21st century technological developments and equipment, and ran out of space.
Hospital spokesperson Alaric Jacobs says: “Housing 75 neonatal beds, the unit is overcrowded and has only one quarter of the amount of space it should have for the number of patients cared for.”