Earlier this week, the board of the McCord Hospital said it would close on Friday, after a breakdown in talks about the KwaZulu-Natal health department taking over the hospital. The board said the department had failed to offer a price that would cover its liabilities.
Earlier this year, the hospital was slated for closure after the department opted not to renew its annual subsidy. At the end of January, health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo announced that the department had made an offer to take over the hospital, and that this had been accepted by the hospital board.
The National Health and Education Workers’ Union, of which most of the hospital’s staff are members, said on Thursday that it was “incensed”. “The unilateral decision by the board to close the facility is a smack in the face to both the workers and the community that uses the hospital,” it said.
“Throughout the negotiations with the department of health in the province and the unions, they have come across as self-indulgent and pessimistic.” The union accused the hospital board of overvaluing the hospital and said it had issued a letter of demand to the hospital.
It did not detail what the demands were, but said that unless they were met, the union would approach the Labour Court. The United Democratic Movement and the Inkatha Freedom Party urged both the hospital board and the department to reach a solution to keep the hospital open.
“It is unacceptable that this hospital is being allowed to close down and the provincial health department should have ensured that this closure does not happen,” said IFP health spokeswoman Hilda Msweli.
UDM spokesman Bongani Msomi said: “The province can ill-afford to lose such a credited health facility, which is still so relevant to the health of our nation.”
Provincial health spokesman Sam Mkhwanazi said the department would issue a statement in due course.