Innovative hospital upgrade boosts health and employment in Zithulele

Despite South Africa’s immense potential, the country faces considerable challenges that require concerted efforts to catalyse socio-economic development and empower local communities, particularly in the often-overlooked remote regions of the nation.

Zithulele main entrance rendering.

GVK Siya-Zama, as one of the largest privately-owned construction companies in South Africa, is committed to driving this change, with the upgrading of Zithulele District Hospital in Mqanduli, Eastern Cape, being a prime example of this.

According to Peet Meyer, Managing Director of the company’s operations in the Eastern Cape, the company’s expertise extends beyond mere construction to stimulating employment opportunities in the projects it undertakes.

“We are dedicated to collaborative efforts aimed at uplifting communities, ensuring that our impact transcends mere physical structures and leaves behind lasting positive change,” adds Meyer.

Based in the heart of the Wild Coast, the Zithulele District Hospital was originally established as a Dutch Reformed Church in the late 1950s, with the clinic facility opening its doors the same year. With a mere 58 functional beds in 2005, and increasing to 146 today, the facility has expanded over the years to meet the growing needs of the community, particularly as more than 14 local clinics and two community health centres refer patients to the hospital.

In response to the demand for expanded services, GVK Siya-Zama, in collaboration with local contractors, is currently renovating the hospital. The renovations will feature 157 dedicated inpatient beds, male and female general wards, facilities for obstetric and basic gynaecological inpatient care, paediatric care, an infectious diseases unit, general outpatient services, clinical support services, rehabilitation and sub-acute services, a gateway clinic, staff accommodation, and a 24-hour emergency unit.

Additionally, electrical and sewer infrastructure will be upgraded to meet the demands of the new additions to the facility.

Operating in remote areas is not without its challenges, including the sacrifices personnel make by spending extended periods away from home and their loved ones, limited access to water and

electricity, a shortage of skilled labour, and a lack of accommodation. However, regardless of these challenges, GVK Siya-Zama has taken proactive steps to find solutions to these by erecting short-term accommodation, seeking solutions to remedy supply issues, and mentoring contractors and their personnel, for example.

“Besides addressing the healthcare needs of the immediate community and surrounding areas, the renovation of the Zithulele District Hospital has brought with it increased employment opportunities, intending to employ 2,000 people throughout the project,” says Meyer.

“Moreover, several local postgraduate Built Environment students are actively engaged in the project, showcasing exceptional motivation and skill. Their dedication has surpassed our expectations and has prompted us to consider offering permanent employment to three of the individuals.”

With a projected completion timeline of 60 months, the success of the project hinges on three key criteria. These encompass job creation within the area, provision of training and internship opportunities for the local community, and engaging SMMEs to foster economic development and sustainability.

In addition to generating employment opportunities, the project prioritizes the creation of jobs specifically tailored for youth aged between 18 and 35, women and individuals with physical disabilities. Training initiatives will encompass technical and skills development programmes and are aimed at enhancing the capabilities of local residents.

Zithulele District Hospital rendering view of main facade, plaza and parking.

Furthermore, the sourcing of SMMEs will predominantly focus on entities within the local King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality, followed by those in the OR Tambo District Municipality, and the broader Eastern Cape region.

“While operating in a remote part of the country may be challenging, the privilege of being involved in a project that will improve the lives of the community and add to their prosperity far outweighs any burden faced.”

“As we look to the future, we remain steadfast in our commitment to driving positive change, fostering sustainable development, leaving a lasting legacy of empowerment and progress, and uplifting the spirits and aspirations of those involved communities for generations to come,” concludes Meyer.

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