Minister Motsoaledi said these developments will be done to accomplish the National Health Insurance (NHI) mission, which will ensure that everyone has access to appropriate, efficient and quality health services.
He said his department deliberately built state-of-the-art hospitals in small towns and rural areas to provide quality services to the public.
“… quite often when you ask doctors why they don’t go to the rural areas, they will tell you that there is no equipment. Some will tell you that they want to advance their careers and it won’t be possible in rural area,” said Minister Motsoaledi.
He said the equipment found in the recently built hospitals was of a world class standard, and it was advanced in technology.
He added that SA has talented medical practitioners, health professionals and clinical technologists.
“One of the state-of-the-art equipment in Dr Harry Surtie Hospital is the Lodox Machine (X-ray scanner), a South African product… which was invented in SA,” said the Minister.
Minister Motsoaledi added that by building these hospitals in rural communities, more doctors will be attracted to serve the public regardless of their residential areas.
“It will also be important to get some medical students to come and help people in rural areas,” said Minister Mostoaledi.
A community member, who attended the opening ceremony, Mponeng Mabe, 62, of Pabalelo location, said she was delighted to have the hospital built closer to her community.
Before the new hospital opened, Mabe used to take two taxis to get health services from the old Gordonia hospital.
“Whenever I got transferred there [Gordonia] by the clinic, I got so frustrated by the thought of sitting for almost an hour in a taxi not feeling well, plus I would have to queue again when I get to the hospital. This is great for us, I am really happy,” said Mabe, who lives almost eight kilometres away from the new 327-bed hospital.
Another resident who visited a neighbour admitted at the hospital, Sonia Lephepha, also from Pabalelo, said it has been her long term wish to have a hospital closer to her because she was aging.
“My husband and I are aging, and travelling to the hospital is already a problem. So I am happy because I just take one taxi from my house to this new hospital,” said the 63-year-old Lephepha.
Lephepha, who has been living at Pabalelo for more than 30 years, said she was aware that the new hospital, located in Progress, will also create jobs for youth in Upington and neighbouring areas.
“Maybe my children or grandchildren will work at the hospital,” she said.
President Zuma said building decent health facilities is designed to move South Africa a step forward.
“Together we will move our country forward to security and comfort for all.
“I committed our Government during the State of the Nation Address this year that the target for this administration is to ensure that at least 4.6 million people are enrolled in the anti-retroviral programme,” said the President.
President Zuma was pleased to realise that the construction of Dr Harry Surtie hospital did not only offer health services, but created more than 200 direct and indirect jobs to residents of Upington and surrounding Areas.
Public Works MEC David Rooi said women contractors also participated in building the hospital.
“We want to make sure that we develop women contractors,” MEC Rooi said.
The new hospital serves the western half of the Northern Cape Province, as Upington alone has a population of about 70 000 people.
Nursing College expands
“Many people in and around the area of Upington continue to benefit, and economic growth and development shows positive trends. However, we must intensify our efforts at improving on training on clinical staff,” President Zuma said.
He said the transfer of hospital services from the old Gordonia Hospital to the new Dr Harry Surtie Hospital has provided an opportune moment for training through expanding Nursing College facilities.
“In addition to the Henrietta Stockdale Nursing College in Kimberley, I am pleased to announce that there will be satellite colleges in Upington, De Aar and Kuruman,” said President Zuma.
He further announced that the new Upington Nursing College will be located at the old Gordonia Hospital site.
“There will be improved access to training for our nurses and ensuring that training takes place within the province,” President Zuma said.
He said part of the college will provide training for Emergency Care services.
He said through Service Transformation Plan (STP), government is committed to the reconfiguration of services, to ensure a larger proportion of the population have appropriate access to district, regional and tertiary hospital services.
The expansion of regional services in the new Dr Harry Surtie Hospital will reduce referrals to Kimberley and improve local access to more specialist services.
President Zuma said Dr Harry Surtie, a dentist whom the new hospital is named after, always put the interests of people first.
“He gave assistance to people who could not afford treatment. We dare not fail him,” he said.
Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas said it was important to acknowledge the role played by people who struggled due to apartheid, but fought for freedom of the country.
“I don’t think we can express our appreciation enough for having this kind of facility erected in our town,” said Premier Lucas, speaking in a tent full of more than 2 500 residents from Upington and surrounding areas.