South Africa: Crumbling North West Hospital Is a Health Hazard, but Desperate Patients Fight to Keep It


A dilapidated hospital near Lichtenburg in North West has become such a health hazard to patients that the province has decided to close the 120-bed facility. Still, residents are fighting to keep the decaying building open.

Thusong District Hospital serves a population of 230,000 from three townships, 15 villages and more than a dozen surrounding farms. Built in 1968, the hospital has been so neglected that its operating theatres are no longer in use due to outdated and broken equipment. The radiology department has become virtually inaccessible and the residences meant to accommodate doctors and nurses are vandalised and uninhabitable.

The location of the hospital also poses a construction risk owing to the dolomitic soil it was built on. It was meant to be shut down in 2017, but this was delayed by legislative processes.

"Damage to structures and loss of life have been more severe on dolomite than on any other geological formation in southern Africa. The subsidence that occurs on dolomitic terrain following development or during dewatering has given dolomite a notorious reputation and engineers and geologists became reluctant to recommend development on the material," according to a 1986 article in the journal Environmental Geology and Water Sciences....

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