South Africa: Groote Schuur Project

Situated on the slopes of Devil’s Peak in Cape Town, world-renowned Groote Schuur Hospital is most famous for the first heart transplant on December 3, 1967.

The operation’s success put team leader Chris Barnard and Groote Schuur on the map, and today, it’s the main teaching hospital for the University of Cape Town’s medical school – providing tertiary care and education across all medical faculties. In 1984, with the addition of two new wings, the old main building was transformed to house several academic clinical departments and a museum dedicated to the first “Louis Washkansky” heart transplant.

Over the years, as funding from South Africa’s government moved from the health sector to other areas of need, parts of the hospital fell into neglect. Dole South Africa wanted to give back to the hospital that’s given so much to others. Due to an existing association with Lions Clubs International, Dole was directed to Groote Schuur’s Renal Transplant Unit, which serves patients currently undergoing treatment for renal conditions, as well as those who are recuperating from renal transplants. Many patients recovering from such operations face long-term hospital stays, so Dole consulted with the medical staff on how to maximize their experience. The answer came quickly: refurbish the day lounge and kitchen.

Dole and its designers determined that patients should be able to lounge on sofas, read, watch TV, walk on carpets and see natural light. They envisioned an environment that was calming and warm, yet harmonious and inspirational.

The patients’ sitting room was conceptualized as a neutral space, complete with off-white walls, light stone carpet, suede-finish sofas with matching pours and a low glass and chrome coffee table for an extra “home-y” feel. The exterior windows were refurbished with white Venetian blinds, so that the sea was always visible. The words “love heal live” were chosen because of the nature of the patients’ stay in the hospital and the care they would receive from the staff.

As a way to incorporate South African culture, a hand-crafted fabric illustration of Namaqualand and the Richtersveld was hung on the room’s main wall. This native artwork displays traditional practices (“Nama stap” is a dance), plants (half-mens and kokerboom), place names (Lekkersing), typical dress (the kappie), and domestic images (matjieshuise) through use of vibrant-colored felt and wool scraps.

By the end of our Groote Schuur makeover, the Renal Transplant Unit had a soft, yet effervescent living space for recuperating patients in addition to a modern kitchen to facilitate nutritional meal preparation. The Company plans to continue its work with the Renal Transplant Unit’s nursing staff, first by providing visual and reading material, and over time, by incorporating art and sewing lessons for long-term patients.