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September 2023

A Night of Dreams and Medical Innovation

“Dream big. Aim for the stars, you may hit the clouds, but if you don’t have big goals you won’t satisfy yourself at the end of the day. We are only here for a short while.”  Dr Jaco Strobos – the man behind the vision. The vision to put people first. 

It’s spring-time in Johannesburg and there isn’t a cloud in the sky, on what is about to become a night to remember. A night that will leave all those people, whose dedication and ambition have come together, to realise their dream four and a half years in the making. It’s a warm evening. A gentle breeze is blowing and there is  much excitement and camaraderie as the final touches are made to the years of preparation. 

The champagne is on ice; the stage has been set; the music is cued up; the red carpet has been rolled out and every minute detail has been taken care of, from the printed napkins to the flower arrangements. There is a large red ribbon tied across the entrance of the new Johannesburg Surgical Hospital. A hospital built to break boundaries; put people first and usher in an era of medical care, practice and education – not only to South Africa, but to the world at large. 

This state of the art hospital began construction in 2019. It has often been the talk of the town, ever since rock bottom was levelled out and the first signs of scaffolding went up. For years, locals in the Blackheath and Northcliff areas, as well as those who frequently travel along Beyers Naude drive south towards the Johannesburg CBD or north towards Honeydew, have been wondering about this huge construction site and what it might become. Tonight all will be revealed. 

As guests begin to arrive, dressed to impress at this formal function, the champagne glasses are filled and the chefs are making final touches. Guests make their way from the two-story basement parking up to the ground floor, where an elegant cocktail venue has been set up. A smell of fresh paint permeates the air, and the stylish finishes to the hospital set the scene for a lovely evening. 

The Mistress of ceremonies is the late Nelson Mandela’s right-hand lady, Zelda La Grange, who opens proceedings with an entertaining account of the first time she accompanied Madiba on a state visit. Then it is the turn of Bernhard Venter, the first speaker. He is a key member of the board and the man who oversaw the construction of the hospital from ground up. 

What we’ve achieved here is unheard of. A project of this scale usually takes 10 years, we have done it in four and a half.” Venter then elaborates on the elements that make up this four-story building. “To build this 150-bed hospital about 13,000 cubes of concrete, 1,300 tons of rebar, in excess of 2 million bricks,  50,000 tiles and 69 tons of glass were used. Between 450 and 500 staff members worked on the project. We wanted to build a hospital that would put people first and accordingly we have some of South Africa’s best medical practitioners on our team.” 

So where did the money come from? The JSH is essentially a crowd-funded initiative. Each member of the board – a team of SA’s top medical practitioners – pooled together to build this hospital, and have a stake in it. But that’s not where all the money came from. The doctors could only do so much in their own right; a project of this scale was always going to need help. “We asked ourselves, how are we gonna fund it through a crowdfunding model?” Venter explains. “Fortunately, Investec were happy to partner with us.” He thanked the bank for sharing and supporting the vision, a vision he said, “… for which we have one man to thank. “

Dr. Jaco Strobos, who has built a reputation for himself as one of South Africa’s leading Orthopaedic Surgeon, affectionately known as Dr. Shoulder, said, “We want to make a difference with a state-of-the-art hospital. We want to educate staff, patients and people. To create a first-class medical facility and to break boundaries.” Strobos tells us how this is just the beginning. Part of what the future holds for JSH is another two phases to the hospital, including a private medical school. He notes how we have a skills shortage here in South Africa, since all our top physicians as well as our top candidates for medical school, have gone abroad. But there are a team of doctors who are passionate about the future of South African lives and the future of South African medical care, who do not want to leave the country they were born in. So the plan is to create a medical school that will once again turn out leading surgeons and medical practitioners who will be trained by those leaders who have chosen to remain behind and build the JSH.  

Board members Barnard Venter, Dr. Jaco Strobos, Dr. Mejag Janse Van Rensburg, Hospital Manager Alex Daneel, and Chairman of the board, Douglas Ramaphosa, are joined by guest of honour Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi in the official ribbon cutting ceremony, declaring the Johannesburg Surgical Hospital officially open for business.

Lesufi fully supports this mission. As he takes to the stage to address the crowd and fan the flames of optimism, by mentioning on the 4 September 2023, he is going to set the wheels in motion to draw on his government network to ensure this mission is successful. He added that partnership in this Medical School will be incentivised by the government. Watch this space. 

Formal proceedings are wrapped up by our Mistress of Ceremonies as she invites guests to take a tour of the hospital, to see the state-of-the-art facilities, and marvel at the progress that medical science has made. With that, more champagne is opened, wine glasses are filled and guests are treated to five star cocktail dining provided by the team at Kleine Constantia Guest House and Olivia’s – who has their very own branch inside the hospital reception area, where patients can enjoy excellent coffee and deli delights. Celebrations continue into the night signalling in a new dawn for medical innovation filled with big dreams and the intention of hitting those stars.