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.
In 1999 the hospital started undergoing “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, was delayed but then re-announced by the national minister in 2013. The first phase - emergency work - happened in 2017. In January 2022 the contract for the revamp of the entire hospital was signed and work began on site in May 2022! It's been a long wait, and the contract will take 60 months, but we are going to have a world-class facility in due course!
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!
2022 was a year of trauma and crisis at Zithulele. A new management team brought a rather more autocratic style and ethos to the hospital. It resulted in the departure of several senior doctors, including the Clinical Manager Dr Ben Gaunt and his wife Dr Taryn Gaunt (2005), Drs Karl and Sally le Roux (2006) and Dr Suretha Cilliers (2013), as well as many professional nurses and advanced midwives.
Nonetheless, turnover of staff is a feature of all rural hospitals - we have had over 230 clinical staff contribute since 2005 - and there remains a core of dedicated admin, nursing and clinical staff who are determined to put patients first and continue to make Zithulele Hospital a beacon of hope for the community.
Disclaimer This website is not an official government one. Although we believe it to be accurate, it should be noted that all opinions expressed herein are those of the website authors and not the official hospital standpoint. The site is funded with private money in the hope of raising the Hospital's profile and attracting more people to come and serve in this special community.