Audiology Clinic in Africa’s Largest Sub-Saharan Pediatric Hospital has Become Inspired by Ida

By Clint McLean

Outside of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, stands a statue of Peter Pan, the mischievous eternal child that teaches us that anything is possible if we just believe. The healthcare workers inside don’t have the advantage of pixie dust or the elastic laws of physics that Neverland does, yet they still work wonders, caring for about 250,000 mostly poor and marginalized children a year from across the continent. The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is the largest sub-Saharan pediatric teaching hospital, and recently, its audiology clinic became Inspired by Ida.

Inspired by Ida is a designation awarded to individuals and clinics that are dedicated to delivering person-centered hearing care and have completed a training program offered by the Ida Institute. The goal of the program is to encourage hearing care professionals around the world, like Silva Kuschke and her team in room S24 of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, to implement person-centered care in their practice.

S24 is sandwiched between the ENT and speech therapy clinics on the first floor of the hospital. Four audiologists share one bright, open office with views over the Durbanville hills. Silva Kuschke, Cheri Pienaar, Lindiwe Ncube, and Nikki Tromp spend a lot of time together working closely and have become like family. They laugh together, eat together, and share stories about work and life. “We also have a kitchen,” Silva confides, “which we use for making tea and crying about our sad cases when we don’t want anybody else to see.”

Collectively, the team sees about twenty out-patients a day — plus in-patients — at the clinic. Advanced middle ear infections, concerns about speech delays, and infectious diseases such as meningitis and rubella are some of the reasons parents make the sometimes long and difficult trips to the clinic. The staff treat patients from across the country and the continent at large.

Ida’s Managing Director, Lise Lotte Bundesen, welcomed the South African clinic to Inspired by Ida, saying, “The audiology clinic at the Red Cross War Memorial Hospital is admired around the world for their expertise and for filling such a crucial need. We’re thrilled they’ve become Inspired and focused on making their counseling even stronger through greater attention to person-centered care.”

After becoming Inspired, Silva says the clinic is now more conscious of putting their patients first and delving deeper than before to get to the root of each individual family’s challenges. “Our children and their families are at the core of our pediatric audiology clinic,” Silva explains, “Everyone else, including healthcare practitioners, supervisors, and support staff are built around them. The entire hospital works together to achieve better outcomes for our patients.”

Delving deeper made a huge difference recently when a mother from Zimbabwe brought her six-year-old and one-year-old sons to the clinic. Silva’s team had recently diagnosed the older brother with a bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss. The diagnosis happened relatively late in life due to limited healthcare services in Zimbabwe. Silva asked the mom if she could screen the younger brother in case there was a genetic component to the hearing loss. She discovered the baby had moderate hearing loss. He’s now in a weekly aural rehabilitation program with the hospital’s speech therapy department and the older brother is thriving in a signing school.

Person-centered care is proven to lead to more satisfied patients and better outcomes. Even if the children coming to see Silva and her colleagues in the sun filled room with the wonderful view don’t know what person-centered care is, they and their parents will certainly appreciate the results. I guess you could think of person-centered care as a little bit of pixie dust.