It was recently reported that R127 million has been allocated to demolish the 350-bed Kempton Park Hospital that closed its doors on Boxing Day in 1996, leaving behind state-of-the-art equipment worth millions as well as thousands of confidential patient files.
This comes after years of indecision on the part of government about whether it should be renovated and reopened or demolished.
The hospital, that is said to be haunted, was closed by the government allegedly without an explanation. Numerous promises over the years of breathing new life into the once thriving, top class medical facility, came to nothing.
- In 2006 plans to reopen the hospital were discussed, but there seems to have been a controversy around the tender processes.
- In 2008, the Gauteng Health Department said it would make provisions in its 2010/11 budget to reopen the hospital as a 270-bed facility in a private-public partnership. A feasibility study however showed it would cost at least R350 million to reopen it as a 210-bed private facility.
- In 2012 the department committed itself to renovating the hospital, promising to spend R244 million on the revamp.
- Construction was supposed to have started in March 2013 and the revamp was to have been completed by July 2014, but nothing came of it.
- In May 2016 Kempton Express reported that the then health MEC Qedani Mahlangu had indicated that the hospital would be demolished and that a new hospital would be built on the site with work expected to start in 2017. This too did not happen.
Easing the strain on Tembisa and Edenvale hospitals
Reopening the hospital would have eased the strain on the nearby Tembisa and Edenvale hospitals with their high inflow of patients. The excuse for closing the hospital in 1996 was low-patient intake. Mahlangu said the hospital had been shut down because it was underutilized.
“You will be aware that there was a time when we had an oversupply of health facilities for one reason or the other – that’s when the facility was closed down. But now we definitely need those facilities.”
WATCH: Kempton Park Hospital – Abandoned
1996: Gauteng government closed or downgraded nearly a third of its hospitals
The provincial health department closed three hospitals, converted seven into clinics, redeployed 6 000 employees and axed 2 500 staff in order to “cut costs and redistribute resources more equitably”.
The hospitals affected were Andrew McColm in Pretoria, Kempton Park and the Westfort psychiatric hospital in Pretoria. Those to be downgraded were Hillbrow, Lenasia, Nigel, Willem Cruywagen, Hendrik van der Bijl, Laudium and Ontdekkers.
At the time the University of the Witwatersrand’s faculty of health sciences established a task team to investigate the closure plans. Faculty dean Max Price concluded that the plans were “outrageous”.
“There’s been a loss of faith in the planning process,” he said to Mail & Guardian at the time. “They haven’t checked the facts and they haven’t heard people’s opinions.”
Over the years teenagers and others who were fascinated by the hospital and its history, reportedly bribed security guards to let them into the building at night.
Ronald Hart, who was born in Kempton Park Hospital in 1991, is fascinated with the place and has visited it often. He runs a Facebook group called A true history of the untold – Kempton Park Hospital where people share stories of the hospital and upload pictures of their expeditions to the hospital.
After midnight on a Saturday in 2011, the front doors of the hospital were reported to be wide open as long as you paid the R40 “entrance fee”, kept your torch down near windows and didn’t make too much noise.
“Let’s just be honest – the ghost stories and stuff… that’s not true. The untold stories, that’s what I’m looking for,” Hart said to The Star in 2011.
In March 2013 Triangle Paranormal Investigators conducted a “paranormal scouting expedition” for evidence of paranormal activity or ghosts. Several EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) can be heard, including screams and breathing.
WATCH: Kempton Park Haunted Hospital