Foundation of hope crumbles

The foundation where a new four-storey hospital in Lusikisiki was to be built.
The foundation where a new four-storey hospital in Lusikisiki was to be built.
Image: SINO MAJANGAZA

The only thing growing on the site of a promised R740-million upgrade of St Elizabeth Hospital in Lusikisiki for the past five years is unkempt grass.

Visiting the old hospital, the Dispatch saw dozens of patients sleeping on old floors and chairs while waiting to be transported to Mthatha’s Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital.

Introduced with much fanfare in 2010 by then-health MEC Sicelo Gqobana, the St Elizabeth Hospital revitalisation programme was hyped as the first step in an ambitious plan to improve rural health.

But the builders left the site in 2014, said former hospital board chairperson Vuyo Ngemane.

The only sign of any work having been done are underground water connections, electricity pipes, sewers and air-conditioning connections.

The grand plan, as set out in the planning document, was to erect a four-storey modern block, dubbed the New Core Block.

Then there was the paediatric ward, the Lilitha Nursing College, a laundry and single-quarter accommodation for nurses.

The New Core Block on level one would house radiology, casualty and an outgoing patient facility.

Level two would include operating theatres, a laboratory and rehabilitation services.

Level three was for oral health, high care, an eye clinic and a burns unit, and level four for offices.

What finally emerged all the years later is Lilitha College, where electricity and water connections and finishes are under construction.

The laundry building is completed and freshly painted, but was not operating and had no staff. Workers were building the paediatric ward.

Ngemane said a delegation from Bhisho once visited the site and told the board and community there was no money to carry on with the initial building plan.

He said the community of Lusikisiki, who had to travel 127km to Mthatha Hospital, felt betrayed by being fed empty promises.

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