About 43 new state-of-the-art hospitals are expected to be built across South Africa within five years.
In addition, 216 new clinics will be built and 816 old hospitals will be renovated across the country, said Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
He was speaking at the official opening of the R1 billion Dr Harry Surtie Hospital in Upington, in the Northern Cape, recently. The new 327-bed hospital was officially opened by President Jacob Zuma as part of government's infrastructure roll-out programme.
Minister Motsoaledi said these developments would help bring the National Health Insurance (NHI) into operation, and ensure that everyone has access to appropriate, efficient and quality health services.
He said government specifically built stateof- the-art hospitals in small towns and rural areas to provide quality services to the public.
These hospitals are expected to attract skilled doctors and medical students and have world-class equipment and technology.
“When you ask doctors why they don’t go to the rural areas, they will tell you that there is no equipment. Some will tell you that they want to advance their careers and it won’t be possible in rural areas,” the Minister added.
Community member, Mponeng Mabe, 62, of Pabalelo location, said she was delighted that the hospital was built close to her community. Before the new hospital opened, Mabe used to take two taxis to get health services from the old Gordonia Hospital.
“Whenever I got transferred there (Gordonia) by the clinic, I got so frustrated by the thought of sitting for almost an hour in a taxi not feeling well, plus I would have to queue again once I got to the hospital.
This is great for us. I am really happy,” said Mabe, who lives almost eight kilometres from the hospital. Another resident, Sonia Lephepha, said it had been her wish to have a hospital closer to her home because she is aging.
“My husband and I are aging, and travelling to the hospital is already a problem. So I am happy because I just take one taxi from my house to this new hospital,” said 63-year-old Lephepha.
Lephepha, who has been living at Pabalelo for more than 30 years, said she was aware that the new hospital, located in Progress, would also create jobs for youth in Upington and neighbouring areas.
“Maybe my children or grandchildren will work at the hospital,” she said.
Moving our country forward
President Zuma said building decent health facilities would move South Africa a step forward.
“Together we will move our country forward to security and comfort for all,” said the President.
President Zuma also said apart from making health services available to the community, the construction of Dr Harry Surtie Hospital also created more than 200 direct and indirect jobs to residents of Upington and surrounding areas.
The expansion of regional services in the new Dr Harry Surtie Hospital will reduce referrals to Kimberley and improve local access to more specialist services.
The new hospital serves the western half of the Northern Cape Province, as Upington alone has a population of about 70 000 people.
Training of clinical staff
President Zuma said the transfer of hospital services from the old Gordonia Hospital to the new Dr Harry Surtie Hospital opened up opportunities for training by expanding nursing college facilities.
“In addition to the Henrietta Stockdale Nursing College in Kimberley, I am pleased to announce that there will be satellite colleges in Upington, De Aar and Kuruman,” said President Zuma.
He also announced that the new Upington Nursing College would be located at the old Gordonia Hospital site. Part of the college will provide training for Emergency Care services.
“There will be improved access to training for our nurses ensuring that training takes place within the province.”