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Durban - Almost all of McCord Hospital’s patients paid cash for treatment and would not be able to afford higher medical fees which was why the hospital could not go into a private-partnership agreement.
Kevin Smith, the acting chief executive of the 103-year-old hospital in Overport, told The Mercury on Monday that “lots of people” had offered to buy out the hospital in an equity partnership-type agreement.
“If we went into such a partnership it would eliminate most of our existing patients. We can’t see a rescue plan becoming a reality in the next two months so we are preparing to close. Once that is done then we can look at other options,” he said.
On Friday, staff and patients at the hospital – which treats up to 10 000 patients a month – were told the facility would close in March because of the withdrawal of its subsidy from the provincial health department.
Vishu Rampartab, the group manager for Joint Medical Holdings, which owns Durban’s City Hospital among others, said they were in talks with McCord.
“We have had some discussion. But this is the first time we picked up that it will close. This will have a huge impact,” he said.
An emotional Smith said that while the financials showed the hospital had made a profit of R7 million in the 2011/12 financial year, the money was being used to offset a R22m loss accumulated after funding from the US had dried up.
He said at least R100m was needed to bring the hospital in line with national core standards as required by the Department of Health.
“We just don’t have that kind of money and it’s required ahead of the roll-out of the National Health Insurance plan. For us to have better facilities we would have to increase our fees and our patients can’t afford that.
“Some of our facilities are past optimal. It would take a comprehensive revitalisation plan to bring those up to standard,” he said.
Smith said the decision to close the hospital could not be delayed.
Last year the hospital closed the Sinikithemba Clinic, which treated about 6 000 HIV positive patients each month and was used extensively for research.
The hospital’s nurse training facility is already scaled down and no new trainees were enrolled this year.
On Monday DA provincial health spokesman and member of the provincial parliament, Mark Steele, called on the KwaZulu-Natal health department to lease the facility given the looming shortage of public hospital beds in Durban.
News of the hospital’s closure, just days after the announcement of the possible closure of Durban’s Addington Hospital for renovations, would have a severe impact on the provision of public healthcare in Durban, he said.
Steele said while it was undeniable that McCord Hospital had become a financial drain on the provincial health department, officials “cannot simply turn their backs and walk away”.
The Mercury was unable to get comment from the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) yesterday.
Health department spokesman Samuel Mkhwanazi said an official statement on the hospital would be released this week.