Frere upgrades change lives

Frere Hospital’s paediatric oncology unit is giving hope to many poor families who in the past have had to relocate to Cape Town and other major towns seeking cancer treatment for their little ones.

ALL SMILES: Novuyisa Mpayipeli and her son Mangaliso Mpayipeli at Frere Hospital’s paediatric oncology unit. They are among many parents and children benefiting from the hospital’s upgraded paediatric oncology ward Picture: SINO MAJANGAZA

Frere is the only hospital in this part of the province that offers comprehensive treatment to childhood cancer patients.

It has become a beacon of hope to many families as children from as far as Sterkspruit and Mthatha are treated in the ward.

In previous years, the hospital lacked specialist doctors and facilities to effectively treat childhood cancer – at first signs of cancer, patients were referred to either King Edward hospital in Durban or the Red Cross hospital in Cape Town.

Since 2014 the ward has received major upgrades, with specialist staff and improved high care and isolation units which allow for the specific monitoring and care of patients.

This improvement has led to an increase in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer in the province.

Chief medical officer in paediatric oncology Dr Rema Mathew said the ward is now more ready and equipped to treat the childhood pandemic.

“When we started, we weren’t properly skilled to treat this disease, therefore we used to refer our patients a lot. We are now able to manage as many paediatric cancer cases as we can here.”

The most common types of paediatric cancers the ward treats are leukemia and kidney cancer.

Four-year-old Mangaliso Mpayipeli, has been at Frere since December receiving treatment for leukemia. His mother Novuyisa said since arriving at the hospital, she’s seen a huge turnaround in her son’s life.

“Nothing could’ve prepared me for the news that my son had cancer. When we arrived here, my son’s stomach was swollen, and his temperature was uncontrollably high.

“Today, I can’t believe that it is the same child who almost died just two months ago. Frere hospital has given my child his life back.

“Doctors still insist on keeping us here, but according to me, my son is healed.”

Bronwyn Holloway from Dorchester Heights in East London, also sang praises of the hospital’s paediatric oncology ward. Holloway’s four-year-old daughter Zoe was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2015. Her mother initially thought the child had a tonsillitis infection.

She has been receiving chemotherapy at Frere since then, and Bronwyn said the ward had become their second home.

“Our time at this hospital has been phenomenal. We have an expert team of doctors treating our children, and the sisters here enroll for courses in paediatric oncology, to make sure that they give our children the best treatment.

“Their services are excellent, and they give high levels of quality care to our children.”

Zoe has been responding to chemotherapy treatment, and is in school for the first time this year. She is expected to conclude her treatment in August this year.

CEO of Frere Hospital Dr Rolene Wagner said the upgrades enable them to provide patients with safe effective and reliable care.

“I am proud of the improvements done by the hospital to provide compassionate and holistic treatment to little lives since I arrived.

“The work done by the team here is amazing. There is a much closer bond between doctors and nurses and patients in the oncology unit than in any other section.” —