One of the most significant things we can do in this current Gauteng province administration is to relocate Natalspruit Hospital to its original location.
The procedure to relocate it to Vosloorus some years ago was faulty from the start. The stakeholder engagement programme, which took place on February 28 2017, in the Thokoza Auditorium, was insufficient to persuade the neighbourhood to support this action.
But the hospital was relocated without the appropriate consultation. Firstly, practically every community in the Kathorus region, including Katlehong, Thokoza and Vosloorus, has easy access to the area where the former Natalspruit Hospital stood. Second, data that is available indicates that businesses close to the former hospital had a 60% decline in sales.
Local businesses and the taxi industry were severely impacted. South Africa’s unemployment rate for the second quarter of last year was 32.6%, below market expectations.
In comparison to the Western Cape, where the unemployment rate stands at 20.6%, Ekurhuleni Metro has a significant amount of groundwork to accomplish.
Relocating the Natalspruit Hospital to its original location is an initiative that will demonstrate to those who doubt it that the public and private sectors could work together effectively if all parties involved behave fairly and transparently, thereby enhancing the quality of life in the communities they serve.
A few things I should mention here:
When the hospital was transferred, the Gauteng department of health neglected to consider the local economy and the effects the moving of the hospital to Vosloorus would have on it.
The move deprived most households or residents surrounding Ekurhuleni, a healthcare facility, and a possible academic facility to train doctors and other health professionals. There is no moratorium on how many academic hospitals a province may have. Most people who live in Katlehong and Thokoza cannot afford to commute to and from the new Thele Mogoerane Hospital in Vosloorus.
The demolition of the old Natalspruit Hospital was simply sweeping the history of this glorious hospital under the rug. Remember that it was a prerequisite for the old Dukathole residents who relocated in the early 1950s to Katlehong to have a functioning hospital near where they lived as a requirement for the apartheid forced evictions.
Concerns were raised by Gordon Mthembu, who was a community representative concerning the accessibility of a geotech report because he highlighted that the local community was misled as to why our historical hospital was relocated. He made note of the irony as to why the hospital was moved when there were developments going on close to the site where it was uprooted for the so-called geological reason.
Some Gauteng health officials misled community representatives that their meeting was informal and that matters discussed in the meeting were not binding and had no significance.
We are sitting on a ticking timebomb. Gross unemployment is inordinately high. Gauteng, the supposed economic hub of the country, is sitting at 34% unemployment, which is a slight increase from the 4th quarter of 33.7% in 2022.
The requirements needed by 37 public hospitals in Gauteng serving a population of 16.1-million need to be seriously addressed. The healthcare of ordinary South Africans with a population of 59.4-million people is grossly underserviced. Only 400 public hospitals are serving nearly 60-million people, 15.8% of whom are medical aid holders.
As for the dolomitic ground on which the hospital was built, it’s not a matter which should sway us from our original objective – to relocate, as espoused by the Natalspruit Hospital Committee, and return it to Katlehong.
Most of Gauteng is dolomitic. Sinkholes almost always occur when there is seepage of water into the ground because of the corrosion of the material that was used to make the piping system at the time. Unitas Netcare Hospital in Centurion is built on dolomitic ground. It is still standing firm to date after many years of its existence.
Dolomitic ground can be rehabilitated without causing serious harm to the patients and staff that are housed at a hospital. Why was this not considered when the Natalspruit Hospital was relocated to Vosloorus?
- Sibusiso Mbambela is a medical doctor in private practice in Katlehong