Another Durban hospital in trouble

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IOL St Mary’s Hospital INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS (File photo) Patients at St Marys Hospital in Mariannhill wait to be taken to other hospitals after nurses embarked on a strike. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo

Durban - Another historic Durban hospital is on its knees. An order to sequestrate St Mary’s Hospital in Mariannhill is to be sought this week after

months of “severe financial difficulties”, a spokeswoman confirmed on Monday.

The general hospital has 200 beds and, according to its website, serves a community of 750 000.

The St Mary’s Foundation, which serves as a fund for the hospital and is one of its creditors, is to bring an application before the Durban High Court on Friday.

The marketing and fund-raising manager for the hospital, Julie Vivier, said that the relationship between the two parties was amicable.

Nurses at the hospital downed tools for increased pay in November when it was revealed that, even with the provincial Department of Health spending more than R100 million a year on the Roman Catholic Church-owned facility, it was insolvent.

“Hospital trustees have been involved in discussions with the department in an attempt to resolve the situation. Unfortunately no positive solutions are immediately available. The hospital cannot continue to operate under these conditions,” Vivier said.

The hospital would remain open for the time being, and if Friday’s application was successful, an interim trustee would be appointed to take over.

“One of the interim trustee’s jobs would be to try to find solutions to the financial problems the hospital is facing,” Vivier said.

St Mary’s Hospital was established by Trappist monks in 1882.

Staff at the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust said they were “gutted” by the news.

Sara Brown, who runs the trust’s home-based care programme as well as the children’s programme, said a large number of the people they served relied on St Mary’s and RK Khan Hospital.

“We struggle to get adequate care for our patients. The area’s resources are overstretched and this could put additional pressure on RK Khan,” she said.

St Mary’s Hospital is the latest Durban health care institution to face the possible threat of closure.

In 2012, the Sinikithemba Care Centre, part of McCord Hospital in Overport, Durban, which provided medical and support facilities for HIV-positive people, had to close, with management citing a lack of funding. The department subsequently intervened, announcing plans to take over the centre’s operations.

McCord Hospital got into financial trouble after losing its R89.3 million provincial government subsidy and had to close its doors temporarily last year. The hospital reopened in November, but with limited services. From next month, it will be a fully functional government hospital.

St Aidan’s Hospital, in the Durban CBD, also found itself under an unwelcome spotlight when, in February, Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo told its staff the government wanted to buy the facility from the Anglican church.

But when the extent of the financial troubles facing the institution were revealed later in the year, the MEC was quoted saying: “It would be a challenge to run it because it is situated on the church premises. Our rules may be different from the rules of the church.”

In March, the Pongola Hospital’s funding from the department was cut by R4m.

Attempts to contact the Department of Health for comment on St Mary’s were unsuccessful.

The Mercury


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