St Mary’s Hospital – Mariannhill

The Community Outreach Centre (COC) was started in 1997 under the auspices of St Mary’s Catholic Mission Hospital situated in Mariannhill. The Hospital is the only Catholic hospital in South Africa. In February 2004, the COC became a Non-Governmental Organization. This was largely due to the fact that the scope of work undertaken by the COC extended far beyond the parameters of the core function of a hospital. However, COC is still situated on the premises of the hospital and continues to enjoy close ties with it.

It is the aim of COC to empower community volunteers to render quality, holistic and compassionate home-based care to the patients enrolled in the COC home-based care project and to create awareness in the community while also building the capacity in the communities to take an active stand in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The work done through COC includes home-based care. Trained volunteers look after patients in the communities who are unable to care for themselves. They also teach the primary care givers at home how to adequately care for ailing patients. Nursing care, basic First Aid supplies and palliative care services are extended. At the same time COC has started income generating projects and capacity building activities for the volunteers, thus widening their skills base and for some to upgrade to enroll and study professional nursing. COC also runs a three-pronged program for orphan and vulnerable children (OVC). Home visits are conducted to ensure that the children are fed, adequately sheltered and medically cared for. At seven drop-in centers (DIC) which are homes in the community, a volunteer serves as ‘surrogate mother’.

Approximately 31 child-headed households fall under the care of the OVC DIC project. 189 children have been identified so far and enrolled into seven DIC. Here they are fed, receive a stimulation programme while their older siblings are at school. Once they return, they too receive a meal and homework supervision before returning home. A further prong is the running of psychosocial support groups at school, thus reaching out to as many as 587 children in ten such school groups.

As of May 2009, the COC has 384 fully active and trained volunteers who are not remunerated for their work. Twenty-three staff, a Board of Directors and an Executive Committee facilitates the smooth running of COC. On average the Centre cares for 900 adult patients and 2500 children per month living in twelve different semi-rural communities which are located within a radius of 25km of the Hospital. Funding is largely obtained from overseas while two local funders continue to support the efforts of COC. In terms of policy and resource issues active networking with the Department of Health is ongoing.

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