“Even disabled and dying children have rights,” says Sister Veronica of Nazareth House. “And it is our responsibility to uphold the dignity and rights of these children.”
St Michael’s Special Care Unit is one of very few in Cape Town. Part of Nazareth House, this unit provides terminal and palliative care to children with severe chronic conditions or terminal illnesses. The children placed in the care of St Michael’s unit at Nazareth House have been placed there because medical intervention is no longer effective and no family support is available to them.
In operation since July 2011, the facility has been building its capacity to care for up to 14 children. Currently the 6 children in care range between the ages of 2 and 13 but St Michael’s has cared for children straight from birth.
“The children come to us from local hospitals such as Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Groote Schuur and Sarah Fox convalescing hospital,” says Jackie Hope, Social Worker. “In the past they would have lived out their last days in a hospital ward, as their families had either abandoned them or could no longer care for them.” Jackie explains that the children’s medical needs are very specific so home based care is not an option.
Initially the building was used for adult care. Its primary function was to prepare HIV/Aids patients to receive anti retroviral medication and provide physical and emotional support during the first few months of the treatment.
The refurbishment of two l rooms is to be completed this week, which will enable the Unit to provide around-the-clock care for their goal of 14 medically vulnerable children living with life-threatening conditions.
The unit is staffed by 2 full-time staff nurses, 4 qualified health-care workers, 4 student health-care workers and 2 cleaners. The children also benefit from Nazareth House’s Occupational Therapist and volunteer medical doctor and councillors.
Although Cape Town has many children’s homes, Nazareth House is one of the few that offers 24-hour care in a warm and homely environment. This is mainly due to the cost of running a terminal and palliative care unit which ranges from R150 000 to R200 000 per month. Nazareth House receives a subsidy from the Department of Social Development but rely very heavily on donations to meet the monthly expenditure of running a unit like this.
Says General Manager, Rosie Whittaker: “Taking into consideration the nursing costs for a service like this, many places would have to adopt an institutional setting so that they could afford to just meet the basic needs. For this reason, many opt out of admitting a child requiring terminal care as it is very emotional and very expensive. I would like to think that at Nazareth House, especially, we are very unique with our style of caring.”
St Michael’s Special Care Unit is one of the units in the children’s section that provide care for the most vulnerable children of the Western Cape. This care includes providing a secure home for children who are abandoned and neglected as well as care for children who are terminally ill. Many of the children at Nazareth House are victims of poverty, abusive homes or are orphaned. The organisation also provides residential frail care for elderly men and women in need and their core projects include: The Children’s Home, Place of Safety, Special and Terminal needs and specialized nursing care for children with special needs and terminal illnesses
Information on how to help can be found on Nazareth House’s website. Linen and curtain donations for St Michael’s Special Care Unit would also be appreciated. Please call 021 4611635 if you would like to make a donation.