Outcry over hospital closure

11 September 2012 - 02:14 By QUINTON MTYALA
Protesters in front of the provincial legislature in Cape Town call for plans to close the GF Jooste Hospital for three years to be abandoned
Protesters in front of the provincial legislature in Cape Town call for plans to close the GF Jooste Hospital for three years to be abandoned

Plans to demolish and rebuild one of Cape Town's busiest hospitals have come under fire from staff and community activists .

The GF Jooste Hospital, located between Manenberg and Gugulethu, serves about 1.6million people.

The Western Cape health department plans to close it in December. The rebuilt hospital is scheduled to be opened only in 2016.

Opponents of the plan say it is irrational. They have asked that, instead of the entire hospital being shut down, parts of it should remain operational during the various stages of the renovations .

The provincial chairman of the South African National NGO Coalition, Damaris Fritz, said the provincial health department had been "forced" to announce the planned closure after dodging the issue for months.

"We welcome the rebuilding [of the hospital], but we don't want the complete shutdown of services."

Treatment Action Campaign deputy chairman Victor Lakay said that while the Khayelitsha District Hospital had opened recently, it was understaffed and under-resourced.

"Because of apartheid planning, we don't have healthcare services in townships. The net effect of Jooste's closure will be fewer beds," said Lakay.

He said the poor would not be able to afford to travel from Manenberg and Gugulethu to Groote Schuur Hospital or the new district hospital that was due to open in Mitchells Plain early next year.

Yesterday, about 100 protesters gathered in front of the provincial legislature, calling on health MEC Theuns Botha to accept a memorandum against the planned closure.

Botha's spokesman, Hélène Rossouw, said the building was obsolete.

"We can't shut down [the hospital] in parts [and then upgrade it] because the hospital will be demolished."

She said patients requiring specialist care would be referred to the Groote Schuur and Red Cross hospitals.

Rossouw said residents would be able to access health services at smaller community clinics while GF Jooste was closed.

The new hospital would have an additional 260 beds.

The acting chairman of the South African Medical Association, Mark Sonderup, said while his organisation was in favour of the upgrading of the hospital, it did not make sense that it be shut down.

"Doctors and nurses are about to embark on a process of being re-assigned, or retrenched. Retrenching them is absurd," said Sonderup.

The provincial health department's move bordered on "sheer insanity" and its consultation with communities and the medical staff had been "appalling", he said.

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