Alberlito Hospital gives paediatricians and obstetricians marching orders in favour of mental services

Picture: Netcare Alberlito Hospital Facebook

Picture: Netcare Alberlito Hospital Facebook

Published Oct 24, 2022


Durban – Paediatricians and obstetricians based at Durban’s Netcare Alberlito Hospital are fighting back after their leases at the medical facility were not renewed for next year.

According to the group, they plan to convert the second floor, which currently houses 37 beds collectively comprising 15 maternity beds, seven neonatal intensive care beds and 15 paediatric beds, into a mental health “facility”.

Nine specialists who have operated from the hospital said they were informed that their leases would not be renewed in January next year. They were also told to vacate the consulting rooms by the end of April 2023.

“They also confirmed that the hospital would not offer admission facilities to sick children and birthing woman by May 2023. The reason given was that the admission rates to the paediatric, obstetric and neonatal units were too low and that these units would be re-purposed for higher income-generating services,” the doctors said in a statement.

They added that paediatric and obstetric practices were not viable without admission facilities.

“There are no alternative admission facilities for sick children and birthing mothers in Ballito and this step will have a dire impact on the viability of our practices,” they said.

The doctors say the notice was given to them verbally on October 20 and Netcare did not negotiate other options before informing them of the decision not to renew.

“We are still ‘bowled over’ and cannot immediately announce alternative plans but will keep our patients and the community,” the doctors said.

“We believe that children and pregnant woman should always have access to community-based healthcare. This decision will affect the children and pregnant woman who live in Ballito and will have a negative impact on the livelihood of most of us and our staff.

“We hope that these unfortunate events and resulting public outcry will open a national debate on funder reimbursement for especially paediatric care and the change in licensing policy by the National Department of Health that now allows community-based private hospitals to not offer lower income-generating essential services," the doctors stated.

The regional manager of Netcare’s KZN hospital division, Sara Nayager, said the current offering on the second floor had been severely underutilised.

“After 15 years, the growth in the demand for these highly resource-intensive units has not materialised. It has regrettably become clear that the hospital is seeing insufficient obstetric cases with little real demand for the maternity, neonatal intensive care, and paediatric beds currently available.

“Netcare Alberlito Hospital has taken the difficult decision to reallocate this capacity in the interest of patient safety and meeting the needs of the community, and because these units are no longer sustainable,” Nayager said.

“In addition, the persistent low birth numbers make it economically unviable to continue providing a maternity service. Midwives are highly trained and in great demand nationally.

“The unit requires at least eight midwives to deliver a 24-hour service that adequately fulfils the needs of mothers and their babies in the maternity setting.

“Exceedingly low numbers of in-hospital deliveries, and none at all taking place at the hospital from 2019 to 2021, have made it exceedingly difficult for midwives to maintain and develop their obstetric skills at Netcare Alberlito Hospital, and this has also led to great difficulty in attracting and retaining staff.

“We have been in close consultation with staff, doctors and other service providers to discuss the changes that are being planned well ahead of time.

“The Department of Health, unions and other key stakeholders have also been kept updated on all developments. We must acknowledge where we can do better and we trust that these changes will provide more benefit for the communities we serve, ensuring our services continue to reflect the evolving healthcare needs of Ballito and surrounds,” Nayager said.