Providing a greater service

2014-12-09 00:00

MIDLANDS Medical Centre in the heart of Pietermaritzburg is once again undergoing great change.

The 26-year-old private hospital, which won the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business’s Business of the Year 2014 award for service-sector companies, was one of the first private hospitals owned by non-whites in the country.

But of late, private hospitals in Pietermaritzburg have had to refer patients to a private hospital in Hillcrest, near Durban, because there just aren’t enough private hospital beds in the capital city.

Midlands Medical Centre hospital manager Michael Wright said that all three private hospitals in the city, including St Annes and Mediclinic, have applied to the Department of Health for additional bed capacity.

But the department, which bases its decisions on population-related formulas, has turned down all the applications.

Wright said the shortage creates other problems too. Physicians whose patients are denied access to the hospital because there is no room, often complain they are being treated unfairly compared with other physicians who have managed to get their patients into the hospital.

Nevertheless, the 225 bed Midlands Medical Centre is gearing up for a R200 million expansion that will double the physical size of the hospital, pending rezoning approval.

Six storeys of additional parking will be built in the area behind the existing hospital, as well as new doctors’ consulting rooms.

The radiology department will be quadrupled in size and fitted with new equipment.

A new cardiac surgery and laboratory have been approved by the Department of Health, and the hospital reapplied in October for approval for the additional beds needed for these facilities.

The admission facilities and entrance to the hospital are in the throes of a redesign, a new laundry was commissioned last week and the kitchen is also being substantially expanded.

Wright said one of the reasons why the hospital has been able to grow consistently over the past 20 years is that it is totally independent of the big listed private hospital groups.

The hospital is owned by just over 100 doctors and because many of its shareholders and most of the founding doctors still practice in the hospital, decisions are able to be made appropriately and quickly. In addition, the hospital has made sure, over the past two decades, that a sizeable proportion of its dividends are reinvested into the facility every year. Another factor is the strong ethos of care among the nursing staff, something the hospital has fostered with bursaries for nurses and learnerships for student nurses, said Wright.

Because of the shortage of highly specialised nurses in the country, such as neo-natal intensive-care nurses, there is also a programme for foreign nurses to work in the hospital.

Wright said one of the most popular specialities at the hospital is maternity ward and associated facilities.

During the interview with The Witness, we viewed twins weighing 700 and 900 grams in the neonatal ICU who had been born recently and were growing well. Their survival, unthinkable decades ago, could only have been made possible by the hospital’s continuous investment in the latest equipment and in its staff.

• The hospital also won the PCB Business of the Year Award in 2012 and was runner-up last year. It was also a finalist in the KZN leg of the 2014 Productivity SA Awards (Corporate Category).

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