JOHANNESBURG - Nelson Mandela's dream of a hospital to provide specialized care for children has opened in Johannesburg on Friday.
The 200-bed Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital cost $70 million to build. It was conceived by Mandela more than a decade ago, will employ 150 pediatric doctors and 450 nurses.
"There are only four other hospitals in Africa to serve nearly 450 million children," said Sibongile Mkhabela, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital Trust. "Millions of these children suffer from life-threatening illnesses and have little or no chance of receiving the care they need."
Mandela's "love for children was deep," Mkhabela said. "When you brought a child in to the room, his eyes lit up. This hospital will be part of his legacy."
The hospital is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and will provide child-centered treatment for cancer, kidney, brain, lung and heart ailments. Video equipment has been installed in the operating rooms to send live broadcasts of surgeries to educate doctors in remote areas across southern Africa.
Corridors and walls in the wards have been painted with murals of African folklore and children playing. The landscaping around the hospital aims to promote nature and play.
The poor will not have to pay for treatments, according to the hospital trust. Construction of the hospital was funded largely through donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Islamic Relief Worldwide and the Kellogg Foundation, said the trust. Specialist doctors from Canada's Hospital for Sick Children and Johns Hopkins Medicine International in the U.S. will be among those working at the hospital.
The hospital will be South Africa's second for children after the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town. There are also two children's hospitals in Egypt and one in Kenya.
Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president in 1994, died at the age of 95 on December 5, 2013.