The brainchild of Dr Johan Pretorius, a medical doctor and a director of the not-for-profit Universal Healthcare Foundation, 80 professionals across various fields have been working since early March on the blueprints for a dedicated emergency and critical care Covid-19 testing and treatment hospital in Johannesburg.

The projected medical facility will be named the Cecilia Makiwane Gallagher Critical Care Hospital, in recognition of South Africa’s first black registered professional nurse, who qualified in 1908, and went on to become a South African healthcare pioneer and human rights campaigner.

The hospital, which has been earmarked for development in Midrand, is geared to operate as a dedicated critical care facility for Covid-19 patients, will initially have 524 beds and is designed to be upscaled to 1,178 beds, without the need to build a second duplicate infrastructure.

‘No ordinary project’

Commenting on the initiative, Dr Pretorius said the Cecilia Makiwane Gallagher Critical Care Hospital is no ordinary project.

“We believe this facility can potentially save thousands of lives during the pandemic. That is why we have put together a plan to operate a sophisticated hospital facility with a dedicated critical care capability, and with flexibility to scale up or down the number of beds as required.

“We anticipate that it will operate for seven months during the most intense part of the pandemic, with a month to set up the facility beforehand and a month to decommission the hospital at the end after a period of some nine months.

A South African version of the UK’s Nightingale Hospitals

Dr Pretorius says that the hospital can be built in approximately four weeks, following a similar model to the Nightingale Hospitals in the United Kingdom, but modified for the South African context, before being decommissioned at the end of the period.

“We operate in a very different environment to the UK and other first-world environments, and have to operate with limited resources and a shortage of highly trained medical and nursing professionals who will be essential for a facility such as this.”

While negotiations are ongoing, it is proposed that the hospital could be funded as part of a private-public partnership between government and the Universal Healthcare Foundation and its fundraising efforts in the private sector.