Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

In a scenario equivalent to applying a plaster to a gaping wound‚ critical daily maintenance is keeping one of the oldest state hospitals in Gauteng alive. Tambo Memorial Hospital in Boksburg on the East Rand will cost an estimated R800m to replace.

Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa has conceded that "most areas" of the hospital do not comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act "because of the age and the dilapidated state of the structure". She was responding to questions from DA shadow health MEC Jack Bloom last week in the provincial legislature.

"The hospital has been subjected to conditional assessment and recommended for replacement. In the meantime‚ statutory maintenance is being undertaken‚" she said. Asked when the faults would be fixed‚ she replied: "Day-to-day maintenance faults are fixed daily by artisans. Statutory maintenance as per schedule."

Gauteng Department of Infrastructure head Bethuel Netshiswinzhe told TimesLIVE on Monday that plans were at an early stage for a new hospital. "We are still at planning stage and we are working together with the provincial and national health departments so that we put together plans to build a new hospital in the near future. Of concern is what we do now to ensure the current facility keeps working, so we have maintenance teams on site on a daily basis to attend to things as and when they need to‚" he said.

"It’s very difficult to throw a figure [out] because we still have to do detailed planning and finalise that part, but we are looking at [about] R800m for a new hospital … so that is why we came to a conclusion that it’s better to build a new facility because the cost to fix the current hospital was almost the same of building a new facility."

Built in 1905 and located in the Ekurhuleni metro‚ the hospital caters for people residing in Boksburg‚ Benoni‚ Kempton Park‚ parts of Germiston and surrounding informal settlements. According to Census 2011‚ the metro is home to more 3-million people.

Netshiswinzhe said a new hospital would be built as part of a hospital revitalisation programme launched in 2003 with a budget of R1.3bn. "Based on the amount of work that needs to be done at Tambo Hospital [after] we did conditional assessment‚ we have identified what it will take us to fix it and we have come to an agreement with the health [department] that the best option would be to build a new facility [rather] than to fix it."

Ramokgopa said: "Our [rebuilding] is to make sure that we speed up the renovations by ensuring we divert some of the services for the time that the [rebuilding] will be taking place. We will close certain services for renovations and close the others periodically until we are done with the renovations of the building."

The DA’s Jack Bloom said had the hospital been maintained over the years‚ there would not be a need to build a new one. "How did they allow it to get so bad ... Because if you do regular maintenance‚ it saves you a lot of money in the long term. The money is from the Gauteng Health Department and the buildings are implemented by the Infrastructure Development Department and‚ in the past‚ you’ve had money returned to Treasury because of under-spending."

South African Medical Association (Sama) chairperson Dr Mzukisi Grootboom questioned how the hospital had been allowed to deteriorate when the department’s strategy was to revitalise state hospitals.

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