Health authorities and the management of McCord Hospital in Durban ought to be told that what matters most about their squabble is its upshot: imminent closure, at this stage, of the 103-year-old beacon of healing.

Gone will be 142 beds, an outpatient department that dealt with about 10 000 people a month, a day surgery ward, three operating theatres and a training facility that honed nurses, doctors and midwives by the hundreds.

Gone will be a symbol of care in KwaZulu-Natal, a century of compassion. Gone will be a place of hope which turned grimaces into healthy grins and built a remarkable history of gratitude.

Gone will be 424 or so health care jobs.

All of this will be lost when McCord shuts its doors on March 31, amid general concern at our ailing health services. It is a concern felt acutely in Durban, where Addington Hospital will be on crutches for at least three years while it undergoes extensive, overdue renovations.

Where will McCord patients go? To hospitals bearing Addington’s burden, or other overloaded hospitals nearby, stretching their already strained resources to breaking point. It is dismal.

This newspaper reported on Tuesday on 2 889 vacancies for doctors in KZN, and 4 381 empty slots for nurses. It is part of a national shortfall. Our health services cannot afford further gaps, such as those McCord’s closure will create.

There is presently a blame tussle between provincial health officials and McCord management. The accusation goes that the hospital has not stuck to agreed obligations, hence the halt to state funds. Versions conflict, however.

But the stakes in this confrontation make it imperative that it is resolved. The parties will not be remembered for who was right in the argument, but for the closure of a vital institution on their watch.

South Africa has shown itself to be capable of turning deadlocks into victories.

We need that here.