Rusty the Rhino brings fun healthy foods to Netcare paediatric patients

Bravery certificates, colouring in and playful crockery aim to cheer young patients

Wednesday, May 27 2020

An innovative paediatric catering programme is being officially launched at Netcare Unitas Hospital with celebrity chef and father-of-two, Rueben Riffel.

The ‘Rusty the Rhino’ programme, developed by the Compass Group and Medirest, Netcare’s catering service supplier, will be introduced at all Netcare hospitals with paediatric wards countrywide.

Pic: ('Rusty the Rhino' gives Thapelo Maila a high five at the national launch of a new paediatric catering programme at Netcare Unitas Hospital.)

“The programme heralds a new approach to paediatric catering in that the enticing menus offer nutritious meals designed to appeal to junior palates while the friendly rhinoceros character is expected to make the hospital experience more pleasant for children,” says Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division.

“When children are admitted to hospital they invariably feel anxious about being away from home. At Netcare hospitals we strive to make our paediatric wards a welcoming environment for our young patients. In our experience, children who are unwell and are in the unfamiliar surroundings of a healthcare facility often require a little extra coaxing to encourage them to eat, as maintaining good nutrition is a very important part of their recovery process,” explains Du Plessis.

The Rusty the Rhino programme is initially being introduced at Netcare N17, Netcare Ferncrest, Netcare Krugersdorp, Netcare Linksfield, and Netcare Unitas hospitals. Next month Rusty will arrive at Netcare Olivedale Hospital and will be available at other Netcare hospitals with paediatric wards soon thereafter. Celebrity chef Reuben Riffel, who is an ambassador for Medirest, says that he is delighted to be involved in the launch of this exciting new children’s programme at Netcare hospitals.

“I have always been passionate about good food, as it is such an integral part of our daily lives and can enhance almost any experience. Being a father myself, I know that children are often very particular about which foods they are prepared to try,” he notes. “Rusty the Rhino brings a new element of fun to meal times for children in hospital. Presentation of food is extremely important, and the meals will be served on trays and crockery decorated with Rusty the Rhino’s smiling face. The age-specific menus are designed to be healthy yet enticing for children and include ‘kiddie favourites’ with a wholesome yet tasty twist,” Riffel explains.

Rusty the Rhino, the mascot for an innovative paediatric catering programme being introduced at Netcare hospitals, and celebrity chef Reuben Riffel bring smiles to the faces of young patients, Amanda Sumbane and Jay-Tee Gaoseb at Netcare Unitas Hospital during the national launch of the programme.

“The rhinoceros was chosen for the programme because children in South Africa know and identify with a rhinoceros,” says Dolf Smook, general manager of Medirest.  “At the same time the rhinoceros character also aims to foster an interest in this endangered species and promote conservation consciousness in the young patients.”

Smook says that to add to the excitement of mealtimes, meals will be served by staff members wearing Rusty the Rhino branded aprons and caps. As part of the programme, young patients will receive special Star Award stickers as reward for taking their medicine and eating their meals. Rusty the Rhino colouring in materials and other fun activities are part of the programme to keep children entertained while in hospital. On their discharge, each child will also receive a ‘bravery award’ certificate.  

 “We are extremely pleased to welcome Rusty the Rhino with his big smile in our hospitals. We look forward to seeing the smiles of our young patients as they enjoy the special children’s menus and fun activities during their stay at Netcare hospitals,” Du Plessis concluded.


Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Hospital Division
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, or Meggan Saville
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:    [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]