CB20: R75-million

01 May 2011
It’s almost three years since the Carte Blanche Making a Difference Campaign was launched and, from modest beginnings, it’s gone on to become one of the biggest charities in the country, with a total of over R75-million. The paediatric units of several State hospitals have been completely transformed, and still the work continues. Carte Blanche catches up.
CB20: R75-million Image : 2019

Derek Watts (Carte Blanche presenter): "This is baby Bushla, born very premature a few days ago. He's got his own struggle for survival, but his chances are excellent; Bushla's in the very latest ICU ward and he's been kept alive on a state-of-the-art ventilator."

Derek: "One of the most difficult things in your life must be turning away babies?"

Prof Peter Cooper (Head of Paediatrics): "You feel like you are playing God... sometimes it is a toss up between two children and you've only got one bed. So it's really incredibly stressful for staff, but obviously the stress for the parents even worse."

Derek: "Something you never get used to?"

Prof Cooper: "No, not at all."

Heading up the Paediatric Unit at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital is Professor Peter Cooper.

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Prof Cooper: "If you ask anyone who works in intensive care - particularly newborn or paediatric intensive care - the biggest headache and bugbear is not being able to accommodate the number of children... babies that actually need ICU. Gauteng particularly has a very low number of ICU beds proportional to the population."

And this is where Carte Blanche's Making a Difference Trust has stepped in with their latest donation of a paediatric ICU ward and two high care wards. Total value? Just over R7-million.

George Mazarakis (Executive Producer: Carte Blanche): "This is the very first paediatric specialised ICU in Gauteng, outside of neonatal, and it doesn't seem like this could be possible. I was reading a Teddy Roosevelt quote yesterday and he said: 'Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.' And I think this is evidence of all of you doing that; and it's a way to lead South Africa into a positive future and to make a contribution to the children that really have been neglected."

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Karolina Andropoulos (Patron: Carte Blanche Making A Difference Campaign): "This hospital has a neonatal ICU, but they have never before had something that caters for children of all ages. This particular ICU is a six-bed ICU which will take pressure off this hospital and largely the paediatric community in Gauteng."

Karolina Andropoulos spearheads Carte Blanche's charity drive. She works pro bono, bringing sponsors on board.

Derek: "So much that needs to be done... is it difficult to assess what you can do with the funds?"

Karolina: "I think that there's a level of naivety that we all need and use and enjoy... there are moments where all this seems overwhelming and other moments when anything is possible. At the end of day, as a mom, we need to be in a position to take the medical equipment for granted and the expertise for granted and then go back to a holistic view of what a child wants."

Only three years old and already over R75-million has been raised. The Making a Difference Campaign is the single biggest charity drive in South African history, but it's really because of Karolina's daughter Georgina - who died in 2008 - that it began.

Karolina: "I lost a little girl called Georgina. I was terribly moved by... of course my daughter first, but all the other children I had seen in State facilities both here and abroad."

Derek: "And that's probably why I can see you identify with these mothers and their babies, their toddlers?"

Karolina: "Of course... love them all dearly. When you become one of these parents, I think it's beyond empathy."

Georgina was treated at the Sydney Children's Hospital in Australia. It was here Karolina saw the difference that public and corporate donations made on how a State hospital could function at its best.

Karolina: "The entire environment was focused on creating a world and an opportunity for each and every child, without discrimination. And it was actually quite a joyous environment."

To honour Georgina's spirit, Karolina put the idea of the Australian fundraising model to the executive producer of Carte Blanche, George Mazarakis. George's dreams were bigger, and he decided on a national campaign to upgrade facilities in the paediatric units of South African State hospitals.

[Carte Blanche 3 August 2008] George: "My dream is to reach 20-million [rand] - a million for each year we've been on air. I think that would be a meaningful contribution. If we can raise that, and make a difference in the lives of children - that's what we aim to do."

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Derek: "The original goal was 20 million [rands] and you got 55 million coming in in the first five months?"

Karolina: "Carte Blanche and George's efforts were really the power behind that."

Derek: "Were you surprised?"

Karolina: "I wasn't. I believe the good nature of South Africans. I believe in large measure the campaign is the success it is because of the spirit of generosity."

Derek: "This is the new face of the hospital and this section - for out-patients and accidents and emergency - is bright, modern and spacious, but rebuilding Bara' [Baragwanath] is a long process."

And there's still a way to go. The Making a Difference Trust, to date, has donated R12-million into improving the paediatric operating theatres, ICU and high care wards.

Derek: "This is one of four general paediatric wards at Bara' - it really is cramped – and, having been built as an army barracks during World War II, there really is room for improvement."

Today Karolina's brought a volunteer team from Discovery to this ward, to see what difference they can make.

Karolina: "This particular project today is one of those projects where it's not directly what we do in terms of paediatric ICU, high care wards, etc, but it is paediatric focused."

Using their volunteer work force programme, the Discovery employees are looking at best ways to upgrade this ward.

Karolina: "And this is the only bath in the entire Ward 17; this is the one and only bathroom for all of these children."

Karolina: "It's way beyond a job for them... it is something that they do because of who they are... part of their ethos; who they are as people."

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In Bara's Surgical Neonatal Unit the Trust has made a massive impact revamping the entire area. But it's not finished yet - an ICU shell is standing ready waiting to be completed.

Karolina: "What we need to do here is raise the sponsorship needed to fully equip this little satellite N-ICU so that, for those children that need ventilation and one-on-one nursing post-operatively, they have exactly what they need alongside the theatre - no transport involved."

In the recovery room we meet a three-week-old baby, born with her bowels outside her stomach. She needs an operation, but this can't happen until an ICU bed becomes available

Derek: "So, still waiting for the operation?"

Woman 1: "Yes."

Derek: "Karolina, that is a perfect example?"

Karolina: "Precisely illustrating the imperative behind wanting to finish this off, and quickly."

While completing Bara's satellite ICU is still on Karolina's wish list...

Derek: "So Karolina, five ICU beds: what are we looking at?"

Karolina: "At about R2.5-million please (laughs)."

At the Charlotte Maxexe Academic Hospital it's smiles all around at the opening of their Paediatric ICU and High Care wards.

Present is Gauteng's MEC for Health, Ntombi Mekgwe.

Ntombi Mekgwe (MEC for Health: Gauteng): "The contribution by Carte Blanche and other sponsors in procuring equipment for these wards is laudable and we really appreciate that your priorities are aligned with those of government. It is also important that your intervention... that your contribution... is made at the same hospital which was in the news last year for all the wrong reasons... I'm sure we could be in the news now for good things that we do."

Discovery have been committed to the campaign from the start, donating R2.5-million to the paediatric wards. Now they've put an additional million into this specific handover.

Derek: "Interesting statistic that each bed will probably see about 50 patients passing through [each year], and that's 50 lives."

Barry Swartzberg (Group Executive Director: Discovery): "Absolutely! I think it's going to add a huge amount of value to the community here in Johannesburg. It is a proud moment that we are part of this whole process and the professors here are extremely passionate about the work that they do. And it is good to see the people here are proudly South Africa; giving back to society. So it's a fantastic initiative."

George: "I think a million rand is something that deserves a special hand."

David Emanuel owner of Adendorff Machinery personally gave R1-million, which bought a Retcam - a piece of medical equipment dedicated to saving sight - specifically used with premature babies.

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Prof Cooper: "The Retcam can be used by somebody who is not an eye specialist, and it actually takes photographs of the retina at the back of the eye."

Derek: "So this equipment could save, or at least protect, the sight of these babies?"

Prof Cooper: "Yes... identifying the problem early enough that it can be treated will prevent the process from going on to complete blindness."

David Emanuel (Owner: Adendorff): "I don't know if they are going to save 1:100; I don't know how many it saves. But, even if they only save one eye, it’s worth it... especially if it's yours."

Derek: "What do you think of the whole campaign?"

David: ":I think the best campaign I have ever come across, ever. And I'm not saying this because I'm talking to you, Derek. You know, it is very easy to make donations... and I have no idea what happens to money, I've never seen it. This is the first time in my life I have seen something that is there."

Justine Mazzocco (Director: Deloitte & Touche): "For us, this is not the norm to actually see how we affect people’s lives in such a humane way."

Rabia Moosa (Senior Manager: Deloitte & Touche): "I think it’s amazing to see the impact we've had on the lives of people... and on the kids especially."

Justine Mazzocco and Rabia Moosa are with Deloitte & Touche, who make it their job to ensure complete transparency in the accounting.

Justine: "I think in our view... and it’s really based on the work we have done... we can report back to say that the donations were utilised with the donor request, and utilised in accordance with the specifications of the selected hospitals as well."

AfriSam made a difference with their million [rand] donation.

Sharon Maleka (Corporate Affairs Executive: AfriSam): "We are very proud as AfriSam to be associated with an organisation that has this far-reaching view of what society should look like into the future."

Transnet also came to the party with a million rand.

Cynthia Mgijima (Head of Transnet Foundation): "It's really amazing to see where the money has gone and the difference that it’s going to make in children's lives, because here we've given an opportunity to children who probably would not have made it in life."

Sasol donated half-a-million specifically to be spent on the high care wards.

Pamela Mudhray (Head CSI: Sasol): "Looking at some of the children here today and realise they come from poor homes and their need for care is quite intense. So it's immensely satisfying knowing that we are able to respond to the needs of these young children."

Other sponsors who contributed to the completion of the hospital's Paediatric ICU and high care wards were Polyfloor, LG and Hollard.

Medical Equipment Suppliers who gave discounts and donations were Genop Holdings, Respiratory Care and Litha Critical Care

...Each and every one doing what they can with what they have.

Pamela: "This is a very proud moment for me as a South African to stand here and see what we have achieved collectively. And this is testimony of the braveness of people like Karolina Andropoulos and George Mazarakis as well; it's a testimony to people like Prof Beale and Prof Cooper - they had vision - not just for patients they see here - but also vision for South African children."

Producer : Diana Lucas
Presenter : Derek Watts