In 1904 the Boers needed their own hospital where they could feel at home and be treated in their own language. And so, the Zuid-Afrikaans Hospital started out as a six-bed nursing facility in the home of General CF Beyers in Sunnyside.
The name of the hospital was “Het Hollands Hospetaaltje”, mainly because of the funding being received from Holland.
An interest-free loan of £75 resulted in the hospital being moved to a site on the corner of Berg and Walker streets in 1912. The name then changed to “Het Zuid-Afrikaans Hospitaal en Diakonessenhuis” to indicate a nursing facility where Afrikaans would be spoken.
The word Diakonessenhuis (Deaconesses’ home) was included in the name to indicate the Christian nature of the institution. The hospital was cast in the same mould as the Dutch Deaconesses’ homes where it was customary for the deaconesses to care for the poor. In line with modern times, the hospital now refers to itself merely as ZAH.
In 1936, Edmond Francis Bourke (then Mayor of Pretoria) sold 34 of the best stands in the suburb of Muckleneuk to the hospital management, who managed to secure a loan of £3400 to buy them.
The cost of building the hospital was £20000, funded by Dr CJK van Aalst from Holland (£7500), the poet Jan Celliers (£1000) and several other donors.
In 1936 the Zuid-Afrikaans Hospital’s doors opened on the site where it is today as a facility with a 32-bed capacity, an operating theatre and X-ray facilities.
Ward A was built in 1951, giving the hospital a capacity of 53 beds. The Bronberg Pharmacy was built, the X-ray facilities were extended and three extra operating theatres were built.
A children’s ward was added, the kitchen was extended, more beds were added to Ward A and three more operating theatres opened.
In 1966 Ward C was added, as well as two further operating theatres. The bed capacity was now 130.
A nurse’s hostel was built to provide residential housing for the nursing staff. This hostel is no longer in use and in 1970 one of the first crèches at a South African hospital was started for the children of hospital staff. The hostel and crèche were later found not to be necessary and a new medical consultation wing now stands in their place.
An intensive care/high care unit was added in 1986.
Extensions were added for consulting rooms. Those rooms are being converted today into a paediatric unit and the consulting rooms are at the south side of the hospital.
It is a heritage building and the Heritage Foundation committee had to give permission before the renovations could take place.
The managing director, Tienie van den Berg, said that today the hospital specialises in cardiology as well as arthroplasty (hip and knee surgery), among others.
As a non-profit company with no shareholders, profits are ploughed back into nursing training. The hospital has 400 nursing and administrative staff members.
Private medical specialists have consulting rooms at the hospital. The ratio of patient to nurse care in ICU is one to one, two patients in high care are under the care of one nurse as are four patients in a general ward.
“Our nurses are trained by external training schools but we do the practical training in-house and according to our values and standards,” he said.
The hospital is also renowned for its beautiful, lush gardens.
These gardens give patients the opportunity to spend the day outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
“The patients respond so well to being able to sit outside - they noticeably improve.”
In keeping with modern times, the hospital recently had its logo redesigned, opened a new consulting wing and will soon be opening a new, state-of-the-art paediatric ward.
However, Van den Berg said the traditional values within the hospital remained the same.
“We tell everyone that it is only the face that changed, the service and standard that generations of families grew to know and trust can still be found at ZAH.
“We are honoured to have reached the Discovery Top 20 Private Hospitals for three years in a row and that tells us we are doing something right.”