A Tale of Two Hospitals

Or: A Tale Of Two Approaches To Healthcare

Four year old TomTom got burnt. Boiling water. It was my fault. We were in our kitchen in our new home and I switched a stoveplate on to high, put an empty pot on and later added water! Mistake!

I rushed him to Westville private hospital. Where they didn’t talk to him; they didn’t look at him. Please help, he’s been burnt with boiling water! I said. Is he on medical aid? You need to pay a deposit. The doctor was reluctant to even get started. I had to snarl and tell them he’s my son and he’s on my medical aid before they give him attention. A very poor show. Damned disgraceful, actually. If he wasn’t, what would they have done? Told him to piss off!? A hurt four year-old!!? Shame on them.

But we all know private medicine in South Africa is “World-Class”, right? American-class, maybe.


Another time our friend Minneapolis hurt her leg, she thought she actually heard it break as she turned on it playing netball. She has no medical aid, no insurance. I got a call, a plea for help. I drove to Westville Girls High School and took her to King George government hospital – now King Dinizulu. They immediately put her on a wheelchair and talked to her, sympathised and re-assured her. Then off to x-ray her, bandage her, give her medicine and THEN they asked for R20 admin fee if we could pay. A good show.

But we all know state medicine in South Africa is “Third World”, right? We all know you CAN’T go to a state hospital!


Other times, another two hospitals:

Aitch goes to Parklands private hospital. Small op, two nights. They give her a fierce infection. I see it happen. A nurse is putting up a drip. She’s battling. Another nurse comes in, wheeling a trolley. Seeing the first one battling, she drops the trolley and joins in, helps put up the drip in Aitch’s arm. Nowhere have hands been washed. Aitch ends up in hospital six nights instead of two. Dose after dose of intravenous antibiotics finally control the raging infection. The UNNECESSARY infection. So the hospital got punished for their poor cleanliness, right? No, they made thousands and thousands of Rands of extra profit thanks to it. Maybe the nurses were given a percentage of the extra profit?

But we all know private medicine in South Africa is “World-Class”, right? American-class, maybe.


I take Aitch’s dear ole Dad Neil to Mshiyeni government hospital with a broken hip. He’s 88yrs-old. They check him in at 11pm at night. They wheel him around, x-ray him; I see him to his ward and go home. The next day they operate, then intensive care him, put him in the ward and look after him. No sign of infection. I check his hip every day. It stays cool and clean. The senior orthopod gives me his personal cell number. ‘Phone anytime,’ he says.

When I do phone him with a question, he says ‘I’ll discuss with the prof and phone you back.’ He does. Once I sms him and he sms’ back: ‘I’m in a conference in JHB today, but I’ll get the other surgeon to look at Mr Humphrey and he’ll contact you.’ He does. They charge him nothing. He has paid for it the fifty years he paid taxes. THAT’s how it should work.

But we all know state medicine in South Africa is “Third World”, right? We all know you CAN’T go to a state hospital!


I think: Westville and Parklands hospitals’ people should spend a day at King George and Mshiyeni hospitals. Especially their accountants and profit-sharing directors – and some of their shareholders – should spend a day in real South African hospitals. And learn. Maybe learn to spend less on Marketing and Public Relations, plush carpets and artwork on the walls – and more on infection control and human care.


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