McCord’s future in the balance

By SIHLE MLAMBO Time of article published Jan 24, 2013

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The future of the state-aided McCord Hospital looks bleak after the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department said part of the R70 million subsidy granted last year would have to be returned.

Dr Sibongile Zungu, KZN Health’s head of department, would not confirm whether McCord, registered as a non-profit organisation, would receive another grant.

McCord and 60 other medical facilities are awaiting a decision next week from a committee appointed by the KZN Health Department on which would receive funds.

Zungu said the department had reviewed the McCord situation and compared it with other state-aided hospitals and found there was little to account for McCord’s R70m subsidy.

“Funding has not been denied and it has not been approved. The issue has been the business plan that McCord presented… (The) plan is not really talking to the needs of the department,” she said.

Zungu said McCord’s location was similar to that of the Catherine Booth Hospital in the Uthungulu District. She said that hospital operated as a district hospital and received a R88m budget and had 172 beds, compared to McCord’s 143.

“You can even compare another hospital in a similar predicament, a state-aided hospital like St Mary’s in Mariannhill – similar hospital, slightly more beds, around 200 beds, and a R123m budget, and they are a fully fledged district hospital,” she said.

“Indigent patients walk in and they don’t pay a cent,” she said, adding that the hospital was in the department’s referral system.

Priorities

“When you start comparing and having to actually weigh your priorities, you then work out who accesses services at McCord. It’s the paying patient. Where does that revenue go? It doesn’t go to the state’s coffers, it goes to McCord Hospital.

The hospital had indicated in August that it could no longer supervise interns.

“Therefore, you get concerned, because what are we paying for?”she asked.

Zungu said the department had explained this to the hospital’s chief executive officer in several meetings.

Kevin Smith, acting chief executive, said they were surprised by the department’s allegations.

He said the hospital had been trying to meet the department for six months and were taken aback when it called a press conference yesterday.

“We need to understand what the allegations are and understand their concerns before we respond accordingly.”

Zungu said as recently as Tuesday, McCord was still motivating to the department why it should get funding.

Asked if the department would take over the hospital, she said: “It has been clear to the department that the option of a takeover where McCord would be a facility that services indigent patients is not what McCord is looking for.”

The hospital’s presentations to the department showed that they wanted to operate as a private facility and offer certain services to the state, which the state would pay for.

Zungu said when the hospital was open to handing over to the state, they found “that they had a sizeable amount of debt”.

“If you go and take over there, how do I justify taking over someone else’s debt, as an accounting officer?” she said.

Meanwhile, Zungu said a decision was still to be made on whether to close Addington Hospital for renovations.

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