Setting up and running a children’s hospital is a daunting task, particularly when it’s a Madiba legacy project aiming to be a world-class facility, built with taxpayers’ money and contending with any number of logistical problems.
However, Maholwana’s proved to be more than up to the task.
She always knew she was destined for the medical field, as she grew up watching her dad work in a hospital. “I’d always planned to get into this field, but in a different capacity – not just as a doctor. I opened my first practice in Soweto, but after three years, I switched focus when I learnt about the amazing world of pharmaceuticals.”
She duly joined pharmaceutical company Merck and Sharpe & Dohme. This was the start of an illustrious career, culminating in a six-year stint at GlaxoSmithKline, where she was eventually appointed Area Medical Director: Developing Countries, overseeing medical affairs across 45 countries on three continents.
However, a need to spend more time with her children had her seeking new challenges.
“I started looking at hospital management as a possible option. I knew I didn’t have the right skills to go in at a certain level, so when the opportunity to buy an old mining hospital and privatise it came up, my business partner, Fanus van Huyssteen, and I grabbed it.”
The two started their private hospital group in 2014 and Maholwana loved the thrill of entrepreneurship.
She says she was focusing on that, “busy minding my own business running my spaza shop”, when she got the call proposing that she become the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.
“I turned it down at first, but on deeper introspection, I realised it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was a chance for me to help realise Madiba’s dream. I couldn’t turn it down,” she says.