Bid to save cash-strapped KZN hospital

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IOL jan 29  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 - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health is committed to keeping the cash-strapped St Mary’s Hospital in Mariannhill running.

This statement comes before the hospital’s sequestration application due to be heard in the Durban High Court on Friday.

Nursing union Denosa said it was seeking legal advice on whether to oppose a sequestration. On Friday, the union’s provincial secretary, Cassim Lekhoathi, said it represented 300 nurses at the hospital and was concerned about job losses.

The hospital’s marketing and fundraising manager, Julie Vivier, said it was faced with increasing financial difficulties and was trading in a position of insolvency.

Lekhoathi said the union had consulted its lawyers.

“We are very concerned by the court action and the claims by the board that there is not enough money to run (the) hospital after March.”

He urged the Health Department to do everything in its powers to save the hospital from closing.

He said other than the concern for job losses, more than one million people depended on the hospital for health care.

Yesterday, KZN health head Dr Sibongile Zungu, said the department was committed to keeping the hospital running.

She said the department had granted the hospital R112 million of the R135m funding requested.

It was also working with the board and management on reviewing the day-to-day running of the hospital to try to cut costs.

“Areas which need to be reviewed include the scheduling and allocation of staff to cover services within the allocated budget.”

Zungu said operations at the hospital could be reconfigured to reduce expenditure.

Takeover

“We are walking the path with them. Also, when we have exhausted all cost-cutting alternatives, we will kneel before Treasury with them.”

Zungu did not rule out the option of a takeover.

The department already provided 90 percent of the hospital’s operational funding, she said.

“But this decision would be up to its owners.”

The 200-bed, level-one district hospital is owned by the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood.

“Theirs is a case the state would fight. They are treating indigent patients and providing health care in an area where there are limited resources.

“We will do everything we can to stop the hospital from shutting its doors,” said Zungu.

Late last year the department went to the rescue of the cash-strapped McCord hospital. It reached an agreement with the board for a takeover.

The board had initially rejected the offer after the department failed to agree to limited cover for future medico-legal liabilities. The board also wanted to retain some of the hospital complex buildings. Zungu said this had since been resolved. Since then an external evaluator had been appointed to determine the sale price of the entire hospital complex.

“Come Saturday (February 1) McCord will be a fully fledged state hospital. But for now it will remain a step-down facility seeing only outpatients and admitting patients on referral from other hospitals in the district for recovery and observation.”

She said this would assist in alleviating pressure from other hospitals while the infrastructure at McCord was receiving a much needed revamp to allow it to eventually function as a fully operational hospital.

The board has also accepted the amount offered by the department to cover it for future medico-legal liabilities, she said.

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