Prayers were answered yesterday when a 103-year-old, Durban, Christian-run hospital that has the biggest HIV Aids programme in South Africa was given a new lease of life, two weeks after announcing it had to close down because of lack of funding.
In a welcome media announcement KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said that McCord Hospital will not close at the end of March following an agreement whereby the Department of Health (DoH) KZN will take over the hospital’s healthcare services.
The 142-bed hospital was founded by U.S. missionary surgeon, Dr. James McCord, who opened it in 1909 to provide medical care to the Zulu people.
McCord is one the biggest hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province and it played a role in the training of predominantly black doctors, nurses and midwives during the apartheid years.
According to the hospital’s facebook page it survived 10 attempts to close it down during the apartheid era. But recent cutbacks in international funding and news that the government would not be renewing its grant funding (reportedly of R89,2million last year) to the hospital after March 31, led to an announcement by the Chief Executive Officer of McCord, Kevin Smith that Mc Cord would have to shut down. In a message to stakeholders on January 18, he said it was a painful but necessary decision.
In a report on yesterday’s press briefing in Durban, Looklocal quotes MEC Dhlomo as saying: “”Media reports of the closure of McCord evoked emotions in recent weeks amongst certain communities and individuals in society, which is understandable considering the immense contribution McCord Hospital has made, we could not allow for this,” said Dr Dhlomo.
According to Dhlomo, the McCord Hospital Board and management had, on Tuesday, accepted the offer by the DoH KZN to take over the healthcare services at McCord. He said the department would immediately start with the process to work out modalities related to the take over.
“Financial constraints on government and the termination of international grants to McCord Hospital has resulted in the situation that McCord finds itself in. We have no evidence to suggest there might have been financial mismanagement by the hospital,” said Dhlomo.
The chairman of the board of McCord, Prof Paulus Zulu, said there was a long history of a healthy relationship between the hospital and the DoH and on numerous occasions, when the hospital had difficulties, it had approached the DoH for assistance.
“We were under no obligation to opt for this decision,” he said.
When asked whether the DoH would take over any debts McCord Hospital had incurred, the MEC said its sister department, Treasury, would assist in this regard.
“Our main objective is that McCord will not close and we will do anything to ensure this, no matter the liabilities and assets of the hospital. We need to ensure the hospital’s services continue,” said Dhlomo.
Dhlomo said the matter would be served in cabinet next week.
“It’s not a DoH decision, it needs to go to cabinet, but everyone in cabinet wants the matter resolved,” he said.