Provincial secretary Cassim Lekhoathi said the impact on surrounding hospitals and their staff, and the staff of McCord would be felt for a very long time. According to a terse press release by the hospital board, it said it sincerely regretted the termination of negotiations aimed at selling the hospital to the KwaZulu-Natal department of health. “This means the hospital’s effective date of closure is Friday, September 20 (tomorrow).”
The hospital board blamed KZN health, saying a reduction in funding brought the hospital to where it is today. “This reduction in income meant that the hospital could no longer viably operate,” the statement said.
Chairman of the board, Professor Paulus Zulu and spokesman Angus Findlay, declined to comment further on the statement. The hospital, which opened on Saturday May 1, 1909, was the first in KZN to admit black patients.
According to the hospitals website, it had a 142-bed in-patient facility, three operating theatres, a day surgery ward, an outpatient department which dealt with an average of 15 000 people each month, plus the usual hospital services. Its renowned HIV programme had apparently helped more than 8 000 people with anti-retroviral treatments and claimed a 2.5% mother-to-child HIV transmission rate.
The McCord School of Nursing started in 1924, and graduated 190 nurses a year, and the medical internship programme provided training for up to 12 doctors a year.
“The nursing college is also going to close. How can it stay open when the place where trainee nurses used to do practical work is closed?” Lekhoathi said. “The hospital wanted hundreds of thousands of millions (sic), while the department of health could only offer half that.”
He accused hospital management of being illogical. “They wanted to keep the parking lot and the manager’s office, and only wanted to sell a portion of the hospital. “The hospital also wanted a R20 million guarantee for future lawsuits from KZN health. But the hospital wanted the money in its coffers, I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
KZN health spokesman Sam Mkhwanazi clammed up and refused to answer any questions about what the impact on surrounding hospitals would be, or how much KZN health had offered McCord. He did let slip the hospital would indeed be closing tomorrow. “If we feel we need to issue a statement then we will do so. We don’t just comment for the sake of commenting,” he stated.
So it’s up to those who are being affected then to have the last word. On the hospital’s Facebook page, Joey Jessen said: “Oh my gosh! That is so, so sad, McCords was where my baby girl was born and the treatment and staff were wonderful.
“I can’t believe they want to close it down, not everyone can afford the fees at the private hospitals, I think McCord was a saving grace to so many people.” Sharlene Sookdev wrote that she was very sad because she was born there, as was her first child. “It is such a shame to see this happening to one of the province’s best hospitals.”