Durban - Plans are under way to turn Durban’s McCord Hospital into a centre of specialised care within a year, according to KwaZulu-Natal health head, Dr Sibongile Zungu.
She was responding on Sunday to a query from the Daily News on how the department would utilise the facilities at McCord after it took over the hospital at the weekend.
“We plan on using McCord to ease the burden of care in other facilities which are in distress, be it from overcrowding, renovations etc.
“One of the key areas under consideration is obstetrics, which deals with the care of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the recovery period after delivery,” Zungu said.
“This will mean opening up the wards in McCord to cater for women beyond the current step-down approach, which in the interim deals only with recovery of patients transferred from other facilities.
“The idea of turning it into a maternity hospital is the strongest option but not the only one on the table.”
“We are meeting key stakeholders on Tuesday to look at all possibilities and how we can make the best out of McCord, cost-effectively and efficiently, considering our budget constraints,” Zungu said.
Turning McCord into a maternal health facility is likely to ease congestion at other hospitals, especially Addington, where some obstetrics staff are being deployed to other hospitals, while renovations there are completed.
Under the new plan mooted for McCord, pregnant women from overburdened facilities would be referred or transported directly to McCord, which already has a neonatal and paediatrics unit and a history of midwifery.
“Several obstetric specialists who worked at McCord Hospital before the takeover by the department would be recalled to work in the facility, if the parties at tomorrow’s meeting feel that obstetrics is indeed the way to go with McCord,” Zungu said.
KZN has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the country, with about 500 women dying each year while giving birth.
It is hoped that a specialist maternal health facility would reduce this figure, as pregnant women, especially those who are HIV positive, would have improved access to maternal health care and treatment.
Zungu also confirmed the three operating theatres that had been out of use at McCord over the past four months would be reopened.
“...We will get them going by next month or, at the latest April this year, once we complete the practical aspects like arranging theatre staff and so on,” she said.
However, while Zungu welcomed the hospital being taken under her department’s wing, she cautioned against high expectations, given the state of the 104-year-old building.
During a walkabout through the hospital with the Daily News, acting hospital manager, Dr Jay Mannie, said most parts of McCord had never been refurbished.
A cursory examination showed most of the hospital to be clean and well-maintained, including its operating theatres.
However, several wards were in disrepair and were not fit for use.
These included a male and female general ward, as well as a paediatric ward, all of which had been out of use for several years.
They had cracked walls, leaking ceilings, broken tiles and contained abandoned equipment.
Mattresses and chairs, as well as medical and office equipment, were piled high in these wards.
McCord Hospital had been operating as a semi-private health facility, with partial funding from the provincial Health Department, until it was sold to the department last year after experiencing financial difficulties.