Strife over baby hospital

2016-06-06 09:45
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Pietermaritzburg - Owners of the Department of Health licence granting permission to build South Africa’s first mother-and-child hospital in Pietermaritzburg are involved in a squabble that might derail the R500 million project.

This is according to city businessman Isaac Mando, who is listed in Department of Health documents as a joint owner of the licence along with paediatrician Dr Dorshen Naidoo and his paediatrician wife, Dr Raksha Takoordeen.

Mando said their partnership began to sour when, upon receiving permission to start the development, it was proposed that his shareholding be limited to 13%, while Dr Dorshen Naidoo’s be increased to 66% from an initially proposed 51%.

As tension began to escalate on this issue, Mando said, the other two partners then started to claim to various entities — such as a potential funder of the project the KwaZulu-Natal Growth Fund — that in fact he had only been a “facilitator”, and that a settlement agreement had been reached with him and he was no longer involved in the project.

Mando said in fact, it was his participation in the project that got it off the ground. He had, through various presentations obtained letters of support from, among others, the KwaZulu-Natal premier, the mayor and other municipal officials, the Department of Health, and from potential funders.

Mando, who said he was the “empowerment” face behind the deal, said he also facilitated a deal with the Victoria Country Club, as the owner of the proposed land, to become an equity partner, because the project’s partners did not have the R12 million to buy the property.

“I am involved in other projects in Pietermaritzburg that are much bigger than this and no longer want to be involved. I just need to have some justice on this issue. They have been trying to exclude me with claims that are not true … This is not about the children, it’s about people being greedy,” said Mando.

Dr Dorshen Naidoo however said Mando was a “disgruntled ex-partner” who was taken on as a “facilitator” for dealing with institutions such as the Department of Health, for permissions to proceed further with the project.

Naidoo said Mando had entered into a settlement agreement “of his own choice”, but was now “misrepresenting” the project, and was trying to claim R52 million as payment for his role in the project after “not contributing one cent towards it”.

Mando, however, denied entering into any settlement agreement, and also denied asking for R52 million. “They need to show me some papers where I signed this,” he said.

Mando said the project was at risk as potential investors were unlikely to finance a project where shareholders’ relations had reached the stage where they were only communicating through lawyers. Naidoo said at this point, the project was worth zero rand, as the developers would be R500 million in debt until the hospital was built and operating.

Mando said the hospital could also not be developed if one of the three applicants listed in the “licence” did not participate in the development. Naidoo said Mando did not understand that there was no “licence” for the hospital.

The developers had merely received permission to “further develop” the hospital, Mando was one of co-applicants for the permission, and the Department of Health would only provide final approval for the operation of the hospital once it was fully built, Dr Naidoo said. He added they were in talks with the Department of Health and funders of the project to find a way to resolve the matter.

Construction of the hospital was expected to start later this year.

Planning for the hospital had begun three years ago.

The hospital will deal with referrals, taking the most critical babies and mothers, aiding hospitals such as Grey’s Hospital, the tertiary hospital for western KwaZulu-Natal.

The aim is for the hospital to incorporate both the public and private sector. It started out as a R220 million proposal for just the hospital, but the addition of a step-down facility and boutique hotel pushed the capital cost up to R500 million.

The plan is for the hospital to house 147 beds and offer surgery for babies, oncology for both mothers and babies, obstetrics, paediatric rehabilitation following burns or car accidents and a fertility clinic.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  health  |  hospital

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