Zithulele Hospital started in 1956 as a mission of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. The first clinic was opened in late 1956 and still exists, now as renovated accommodation, on the church grounds. In September 1961 the first hospital was opened and later that year a separate TB hospital too. The church handed the hospital over to the government of the so-called independent homeland of the Transkei in 1976 and today the hospital is run by the Department of Health of the Eastern Cape. Nevertheless, the hospital retains some of its mission ethos.
Since 1999 the hospital has undergone “revitalisation”. A new out-patients block and theatre were opened in 2000 and a new hospital wing encompassing new maternity, paediatrics and general male and female wards became functional in late 2005. New accommodation for staff – two double storey nursing residences and semi-detached flats for professional staff – opened in mid-2008. The renovation of the rest of the hospital, including new and expanded TB wards, the building of physiotherapy and occupational therapy departments, new pharmacy, HIV clinic and a new administration block, has been temporarily delayed but was re-announced by the national minister in 2013. We are really hoping building will begin in 2017!
A mix of characters has staffed Zithulele Hospital. After the dedicated missionaries left, the hospital struggled to attract staff and for periods, especially in the 1980s, was without any doctors. Since July 2004 Zithulele has been allocated community service (post-internship year) doctors. They helped improve the standards and enthusiasm levels substantially. In July 2005 the current senior doctors arrived with long term plans for building the hospital up into a centre of excellence in rural health care. 2006 saw the appointments of the hospital’s first physiotherapist, occupational therapist and pharmacist and the multi-disciplinary team is now a strong feature of the hospital. The first dentist came in 2007, the first dietician in 2009. In 2011 our services included speech therapy and audiology for the first time and in 2014 we added our first hospital employed optometrist! Turnover of staff is a feature of all rural hospitals - we have had over 100 clinical staff contribute in the past decade.
In the meantime, the rest of the staff complement has also expanded considerably. We now have over 60 professional nurses and total staff number of over 300.
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