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Fire-ravaged Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital gets a R60m dispensary — courtesy of Gift of the Givers

Fire-ravaged Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital gets a R60m dispensary — courtesy of Gift of the Givers
From left: Gauteng MEC For Health and Wellness Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, CEO of the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital Gladys Bogoshi, Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman and Minister of Health Joe Phaahla at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital on 18 May 2023 for the handover of a R60m dispensary. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

Gift of the Givers has handed over a new R60m dispensary to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, 25 months after a fire broke out in the hospital’s dispensary storage room, destroying stored medical goods and protective equipment worth R40m.

‘This momentous occasion is not about bricks and mortar, but about the commitment to excellence in healthcare and the dedication to providing the best possible patient care. This… is more than just a physical structure, it is the heartbeat of our healthcare system and will serve as storage… for medical supplies, our equipment and pharmaceuticals and other resources necessary for the seamless delivery of healthcare services.”

These were the opening remarks of Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko during the handover of a new R60-million dispensary to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital by Gift of the Givers. The event was attended by Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla, a representative of Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), among other dignitaries.  

charlotte maxeke dispensary

Minister of Health Joe Phaahla (centre left) and Gauteng MEC For Health and Wellness Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko (centre right) at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital on 18 May 2023. A R60m dispensary was built after a fire in April 2021 destroyed the hospital’s dispensary storage room. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

The new dispensary is the result of a collaborative effort between Gift of the Givers, the government and the DBSA. It is double the size of the one that burnt down two years ago.  

Setting a standard

Founder of Gift of the Givers Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said the organisation had committed to the eight-month project of building the new dispensary for all, including the vulnerable, disadvantaged and poor, who depend on the public healthcare system.

“When we came on site there were different options and many people were interested in refurbishing the other parts of the damaged hospital. But I realised that the store was critical and no one was interested in that aspect.

“As part of our development and putting this project together we wanted to set a standard not to be substandard or inferior because it’s for the… public service, because I am that public and so are you.”

Sooliman added: “Depending on funding, we can look at rebuilding other parts of the hospital.” 

Inside the new dispensary 

charlotte maxeke dispensary

The new R60m dispensary at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

The new 3,000m2 facility, which was previously a nurses’ dining room, is the largest medical storage facility in South Africa. It has been designed to give healthcare providers quick, convenient access to the items they need, and it reinforces safety measures.

Fire engineer Mfundo Langa said the facility was designed with extra features to withstand fire. 

“The extra features include sprinklers, fire detectors, fire hydrants, 900 kilolitres of water tanks which can last for 90 minutes, as well as a system to ensure that wherever a fire starts, it is contained.”   

Remedial work and operations

Twenty-five months after the fire which devastated the hospital — the second-largest tertiary hospital in the Southern Hemisphere — it is almost fully functional after delays in the restorative work, which Minister Phaahla said was being accelerated. He admitted his department had taken a long time to intervene, as the extent of the damage was initially underestimated. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: A litany of alleged failures leaves Johannesburg’s crucial hospital shuttered 

Giving a progress report, project manager of the restorative work at the hospital, the DBSA’s Nathi Mahlangu said: “There is a fire-damaged area which is a priority and one that needs to be attended to speedily. 

“Given that we have lost some time in some of the processes, we are going to prequalify some of the contractors to make it easier to expedite the process of getting contractors on-site. We are planning that by the end of this year [all the] contractors will be appointed… with the priority being fire-remedial works that we have estimated about 12 months to complete.” 

Hospital CEO Gladys Bogoshi said: “Today I stand with a lump in my throat because indeed on the 16th of April 2021 at 11.20 exactly, I was busy with shortlisting and I was told there is a little fire in the stores…”

Bogoshi said the hospital, commissioned in 1972, had been through much adversity but was still standing and would continue to do so. DM

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