Celebrating 80 years of health and wellness for vulnerable children

For 80 years, St Joseph’s Home (SJH) for Chronically Ill Children has cared for orphaned and vulnerable children from all races. Against a background of political turmoil and poverty, the facility has survived, defied Apartheid and touched the lives of more than 21 000 children.  

On 22 September (11:00) this landmark achievement was celebrated with a special Mass at St Joseph’s (which incidentally followed one day after International Peace Day). The Mass was conducted by Archbishop Stephen Brislin and more than 200 special candles, sponsored by SPAR Western Cape’s CSI  were lit to celebrate the healing of children. Sisters from the Pallottine Order from Rome and Germany  also attended while Mayco member, Suzette Little, conveyed good wishes from the City.

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Located in Philippi initially, and later in Montana (1967), Cape Town, the facility was established in 1935 by ten Pallottine Missionary Sisters who were called upon to come to South Africa and care for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC). This included many children who were left destitute and ill after the 1930 Great Depression. Armed with their belief, passion and forward thinking, the Sisters started a paediatric health and wellness model, focusing on the holistic well being of the child. Within six years, the number of children increased to 120, all receiving specialised nursing, education, rehabilitation- physio and occupational therapy,  and  even hydrotherapy.

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Today, St Joseph’s Home (SJH) for Chronically Ill Children is a registered non-profit organization and a proud South African pioneer in the field of  paediatric intermediate health care. The holistic model of service includes,  free 24 hour general and specialised nursing care (140 beds maximum and block rehab patients), and multi-disciplinary interventions such as Physiotherapy, Occupational therapy and Speech therapy rehabilitation, social work support, on site pre- and primary school education, parental empowerment, specialised nutrition programmes, logistical support, training of accredited auxiliary nurses (nursing school), pastoral care, outreach and follow-up support visits and volunteer placement programmes. More than 300 children benefit from these services annually.

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St Joseph’s Director, Ms Thea Patterson,  said that SJH is ideally positioned to take on the new challenge of intermediate care service, based on a proven record of looking after children with life threatening conditions. This is also in line with the Home’s strategic thrusts of remaining relevant and sustainable as a financially viable non- profit enterprise which will attract much needed funding from donors and government alike.

At St  Joseph’s we know that we cannot change the world. However, during the past 80 years, we have supported and enhanced the lives of  more than 21,000 vulnerable children from the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces of South Africa. We gave them a second chance at life. We have learnt from the past and pioneered a holistic and sustainable model in paediatric intermediate health care which is currently quite unique in South Africa, “ she said.

Timeline:

1935- St Joseph’s is established. The late Right Rev. Bishop Hennemann identified a need to care for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC’s) after the 1930 Great Depression. Ten Pallotine Sisters arrived on September 23 and a few days later, the first patients were admitted to the vacant Presbytery in Philippi, Cape Town.

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1954- the Group Areas Act forced the Sisters to find innovative ways to deal with the challenge of segregation, as they were no longer allowed to treat white, black and coloured in the same facility. Philippi became a designated black area.

In 1967– the Sisters secured funding and land in Montana (area still undesignated to a racial group), a new hospital was built, and 18 years later, a school  was added.

In 2002 a 25 bed ward was opened for HIV/Aids infected children to counter a new pandemic. Today, the Sunflower ward ( infectious diseases) still cares for at least 25 patients (0-2 years) daily.

In 2008 funding was secured and the Nursing School reopened after being dormant for some years.  More than 100 students from poor socio-economic backgrounds have been trained as auxiliary nurses and given an opportunity to gain a qualification and employment in the nursing sector.

In 2013 the new Intermediate Care Policy for children is introduced and proves to be  a game changer. Patients at St Joseph’s stay for shorter periods, if possible. A pilot rehabilitation programme funded by The Children’s Trust  of Red Cross Children’s Hospital is also launched.

In 2014 major funded renovations worth R36 million start at the Home pioneering innovation, moving the Home away from institutionalised  to more child friendly and homely spaces.

In 2015 the first two renovated wards and the  new rehabilitation hub are completed.

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