The state-of-the-art Alexandra Hospice and Rehabilitation Centre is the realisation of a dream for Grace Marutlulle (82), a community-driven woman and former nurse who has spent decades providing dignity and palliative care for the country’s most vulnerable citizens. The Alex Hospice Roadshow, taking place in Johannesburg and Cape Town on 27 and 28 October respectively, is an integral phase in her long-term plan to secure sufficient funding for the life-changing centre’s operational costs.
A life spent caring for the sick and dying has only emboldened Mama Grace – as she’s affectionately known – to ensure that every person, no matter their social standing or race, is afforded quality care and comfort.
“My mom said she always knew I was going to be a nurse because I used to bandage all the sick chickens at our home in Nongoma,” laughs the grandmother-of-four. “I’ve always had a passion to care for others.”
After completing her training at Bethesda Hospital in rural northern KZN in the late 1950s, Mama Grace sought work opportunities in Gauteng before relocating to Limpopo to marry Abram. She and her three children returned to Gauteng in 1994, after Abram was tragically shot and killed as a result of taxi violence. She worked as a nurse at Sizwe Tropical Diseases Hospital in Alexandra Township where she went on to train as a lab technician.
However, she remained committed to caring for those at their most vulnerable: “Seeing terminally ill people being discharged from hospital, with no-one to assist them, really stayed with me. So, I resigned and went searching for a place to start a care home.”
Mama Grace managed to negotiate the use of a building located in a scrap yard in Alexandra Township in 2000, which she transformed into a 15-bed care home to assist in servicing a population of around 900 000 impoverished citizens. In 2003, it was officially registered as a Hospice, and the need for such palliative care continued to grow. Currently, government spend covers only 10% of funding in palliative care services, while the private sector spends billions on end-of-life care that remains reserved for a few.
“This facility had such an impact as there weren’t many facilities like this in black communities,” she recalled. “It was during this time that the HIV pandemic was really bad. There was so much stigma around it. We’d have patients transferred from local clinics as they’d be tested and have nowhere to go. Often, we had to monitor them just to ensure they took their medication and then they could leave. For others it was end-of-life care. Fortunately, this has changed – the stigma is disappearing. Nobody has to die of HIV.”
Mama Grace’s dream is realised
After approaching local government, Mama Grace was able to establish a 30-bed Hospice at a former school. The waiting list for care continued to grow, and finally after years of hard work and negotiations, Mama Grace secured a 50-year lease for new premises from the City of Johannesburg, with funding supplied by the Johannesburg Development Agency for construction of a world-class facility.
The new building, set to be officially opened in 2022, has a 48-bed capacity, with an additional frail care ward, consulting rooms for doctors, physiotherapists and psychologists, plus a dining and recreational room. There’s also a garden area, rooftop green garden, water tank and 30m tower as well as solar installation. The Alex Hospice water tank and tower has been named the new landmark of Alexandra in March 2021.
“We are so excited that this is finally becoming a reality,” said an enthusiastic Mama Grace. “We want to ensure all patients get the love and care they deserve.”
Alexandra Hospice and Rehabilitation Centre will provide healthcare for the chronic and terminally-ill patients and rehabilitation for intermediate care patients. Plans are in place to establish community-based projects, organise awareness campaigns, provide short-term food provision for needy patients, provide in-service training and general work experience.
The Alex Hospice Roadshow 2021
While the funds provided for the R100-million infrastructure cover construction costs, funding is still required for ongoing operational costs, estimated at around R26-million per year. This month’s Alex Hospice Roadshow, attended by Mama Grace and her team, aims to highlight the incredible role played by this facility and secure corporate and individual sponsorship to provide quality care for patients.
The first Alex Hospice Roadshow stop in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 27 October will include radio interviews, an on-site tour of the new facility, a television interview as well as a brunch and talks for media and attendees. The second stop will be in Cape Town on Thursday, 28 October which will also include radio interviews, dinner at The Capetonian Hotel and the Alex Hospice livestream fundraising auction from the Capetonian Hotel from 6pm to 8pm.
For more information about The Alex Hospice Roadshow or to find out how you can get involved, contact Beata Gelderbloem at [email protected].