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Durban - Missionary hospitals and those funded with international money to serve KwaZulu-Natal’s most disadvantaged communities during apartheid would be gradually absorbed by the government, Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said in an interview with The Mercury yesterday.
He was speaking after the Health Department appeared before the province’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in Pietermaritzburg.
They were before the committee to discuss issues relating to health finance including the provincial government’s takeover of Durban’s McCord Hospital, in Overport, and the purchase of St Aidan’s, in the city centre.
He said at least another 12 hospitals across the province would be absorbed by the public health sector, including St Mary’s in Mariannhill and St Mary’s in Melmoth.
“These hospitals were funded by foreign sources, but now people are saying, ‘South Africa is a free country and we cannot keep on funding their hospitals,’” said Dhlomo.
This was the case with McCord Hospital, where American donor money has dried up, forcing the semi-private facility to rely on a government grant. The hospital was taken over by the provincial Health Department in January.
Dhlomo also revealed that a decision had been taken, in principle, to buy St Aidan’s Hospital which was being leased from the Anglican Church.
The lease would not be renewed when it expired in August, he said.
“The leadership of the church and board members of St Aidan’s are not against this move. We have our staff working there already,” said Dhlomo.
“I think it is important to say that these are hospitals whose histories are exceptionally good,” and which were built by international funders and missionaries “during the difficult times of apartheid when inferior services were provided to blacks”, he said.
The MEC allayed fears that Durban’s Addington Hospital would be shut to allow for renovations.
He said for a number of years King Edward VIII Hospital nearby had been under renovation with some wards moved temporarily to St Aidan’s.
“Now we are renovating Addington Hospital in the same way as King Edward VIII. Doing this with patients there does create a big set of challenges. We will not close Addington Hospital though, he said.
“We will close some wards and move patients to nearby hospitals.”
He said there would not be an unmanageable burden placed on the staff of those facilities which helped out, since staff would move with patients until they could go back to their own hospital.
“We will keep on moving patients around until we finish renovating the hospital”, he said.