100 years of memories

Six pack: The hospital, which is celebrating its centenary this year, delivered the world’s first surviving sextuplets in 1974.Picture: Supplied

Mowbray Maternity Hospital obtained international fame for being the health facility that delivered the only sextuplets in the world known to have survived their infancy, is celebrating its centenary year this month.

The hospital first opened its doors in 1916 and it delivered the famous Rosenkowitz sextuplets in 1974.

Susan Rosenkowitz bore the sextuplets on January 11, 1974, with her husband Colin at her side.

The sextuplets consisted of three boys and three girls, namely David Peter, Grant Vincent and Jason Solomon, Emma Louise, Nicolette Anne and Elizabeth Rebecca who were born by caesarian section.

In the lead up to the actual centenary anniversary date this month, the facility officially launched its nine-month centennial countdown in April which symbolises the length of normal pregnancy.

The kickoff of the milestone celebrations was arranged by the hospital’s health facility board that also used the opportunity to pay tribute to the history and heritage of the remarkable facility and acknowledge the enormous contribution it makes to maternal services offered to mothers and their newborn infants in the Western Cape.

Speaking at the launch, where she addressed staff and stakeholders, the health MEC, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, commended the facility for unceasingly providing quality maternal services to the residents of the province throughout the years.

“It is a key priority for the Western Cape government health department to continuously deliver quality maternal and infant health care,” Mbombo said.

“Our flagship Mowbray Maternity Hospital has greatly assisted the department in achieving and maintaining this objective. We take this time to thank you for your sacrifices and dedication.”

Dr Malikah van der Schyff, chairperson of the health facility board of Mowbray Maternity Hospital, said the specialist offering of maternal and neonatal service has contributed to the success of the hospital.

“Over the 100 years of Mowbray Maternity Hospital’s existence, it has been able to refine and continuously develop its core competencies to effectively benefit a growing and disadvantaged community.

“This dedicated approach has played a pivotal role in the success of the institution and assisted in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity, a global priority for both private and public health facilities,” she said.

The hospital’s CEO Janine Joemat shared the sentiment, claiming it was only through the staff’s dedication and commitment that they got through their challenges.

“Although the facility operates under immense service pressures, especially given the rise in the need for specialised services for pregnant females, it has continued to serve the community by providing quality healthcare. The unique legacy of Mowbray Maternity Hospital is thanks to the dedicated and committed staff,” she said.

Mowbray Maternity Hospital is an amalgamation of itself and the Peninsula Maternity Hospital which was known as St Monica’s before it closed its doors in January 1992. It had served the community of District Six for more than 70 years.

The amalgamation between the two hospitals took place at the same time.

“This meant that many of the staff from PMH joined the personnel of Mowbray Maternity Hospital. Together with the common goal of providing quality maternal care to all, staff members have played a pivotal role in establishing a family orientated culture at the facility,” Joemat said.

“Over the years, this unique aspect has never worn and has proven to be the cornerstone of Mowbray’s success.”

More than 10000 babies are born annually at the maternity hospital and in recent years, it also serves the local primary service drainage areas and provides obstetric and neonatal clinical support to five midwife obstetric units; namely False Bay, Guguletu, Hanover Park, Mitchells Plain and Retreat.

The facility has also been at the forefront of implementing the latest initiatives in prenatal, antenatal and postnatal care. This includes being accredited as a Mother-Baby friendly initiative hospital in 2003.

One of the hospital’s biggest achievements that put it on the map internationally was the birth of the Rosenkowitz sextuplets. Most of the six children have settled abroad with only one or two in South Africa.

In 2007, the hospital received recognition for outstanding performance in the field of healthcare by winning the Premier’s Service Excellence Award for service delivery in the Western Cape.

The centenary celebrations also saw the Western Cape Premier Helen Zille who gave birth to a son 32 years ago, unveil the centennial plaque.