The National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union say it will go to court on Tuesday to apply for an emergency interdict to stop the board of McCord Hospital in Durban from closing down the hospital.
"We have decided to take the legal route to reverse the board's decision to close down the hospital," said Jay Mannie, medical manager at the hospital. "We need to stop this closure because there is an alternative [the government taking over the hospital] but the board is acting in bad faith."
Last week the board announced that the hospital would shut down last Friday after negotiations with the KwaZulu-Natal health department reached a dead end. The department made the board an offer to buy the hospital and turn it into a public hospital, but the board rejected the offer as it considered it too low.
Board chairperson Paulus Zulu said patient numbers have been dwindling in recent months and that the hospital was operating at a loss. "We have no choice but to shut down operations," he said last week.
Emergency ward still operating
However, the emergency ward at McCord is still operating as the staff have refused to accept the board's decision. "We believe that the board has ulterior motives for closing down the hospital," said Mannie.
He believed that the board wants to turn the hospital's nursing colleges into private colleges and the residences into a step-down facility for patients to recuperate from major surgery. Zulu was not available to respond to these allegations.
"We oppose the closure of the hospital by the board," said Mannie. "We, as the staff, support a takeover by government. The department has been a friend of McCord for a very long time and it is our main funder."
Last year United States-based funding for McCord ended, leaving the private health facility – that treats patients at rates lower than larger private hospital groups – largely dependent on government funding. However, at the beginning of this year the provincial health department announced that McCord would no longer be receiving a state grant. The hospital is largely dependent on grants, as it is a nonprofit organisation and charges minimal patient fees.
Opened by American missionary surgeon James McCord 104 years ago, the hospital was one of the few institutions that trained black doctors, nurses and midwives during apartheid.