Ulundi community oppose hospital merger

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The community of Ulundi in northern KwaZulu-Natal says it is against the merger of the St. Francis and Nkonjeni hospitals.

The phasing out of services at St Francis began in 2013 with officials saying the department would convert the hospital into a psychiatric centre.

Since 2017 the department has been transferring resources to Nkonjeni Hospital, including doctors, without consulting unions and about 120 staff have become redundant, says worker representative Buhlebuyeza Mathabela.

Mathabela said the hospital was “a white elephant” after the government refurbished it at a cost of R56 million in 2010.

St Francis was built by Roman Catholic missionaries in 1936 and is classified as a specialised psychiatric hospital. Some of its units like maternity and HIV/AIDS testing have already been relocated to the Nkonjeni hospital.

Mathabela says the merger has an impact on workers too.

“It becomes troublesome to our staff when they find that they have no jobs, no patients, no resources and that alone disturbs the performance and it becomes stressful. The community comes here and seeks services that are written on the board but only to find that the hospital cannot render those services. Everything inside the institution is not well managed and there is no proper allocation of the employees,” says Mathabela.

KwaZulu-Natal for Health MEC Nomagugu Simelani denies that St Francis Hospital will be closed entirely.

“There is a programme which is called rationalisation, where we make sure that each and every hospital is able to render services to the whole community. Other hospitals have more managers than staff which is not right. St. Francis is 10km away from Enkonjeni and it doesn’t make sense to have two CEOs in both hospitals. So, we took the decision to make this hospital a complex hospital with one management, one CEO, one management to make sure that these two hospitals have services and it will continue working,” says Simelani.