PRIVATE CLINIC JOINS PROVINCIAL HOSPITAL: DAILY DISPATCH

A PRIVATE clinic operating in King William’s Town for more than two decades changed owners yesterday after the lease agreement expired between Life Healthcare and the provincial Department of Health.

Now the former Grey Monument Private Clinic has been incorporated into the provincial hospital as a private wing and will be open for business early next week.

The building, next to Grey Provincial Hospital, is owned by the health department and was leased to the Life Healthcare Group.

The integrating of the private wing into the public hospital is believed to be the first of its kind in the province.

The new 18-bed private ward will be run according to the new National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme under the department and will serve as a means of curbing private hospital costs.

It is believed this “developmental approach” will be replicated in future ventures between the health department and other private hospitals.

The clinic was opened by a group of local doctors more than 20 years ago, providing private healthcare to the community of King William’s Town. With the lease expiring at midnight on Monday, health staff swooped in yesterday to do stocktaking, order medicine and food, and refurbish parts of the new wing.

Charged with overseeing the transition, Dr Ntombi Qangule said yesterday: “The new wing will merge private and public practices so we can draw from the benefits of both ahead of the NHI rollout.”

Qangule said it was hoped the new wing would increase revenue for the department of health.

All health and admin staff working at the clinic were retained by the department, and the head sister of the new wing, Amy Jonathan, said yesterday the experience would be a learning curve for all involved.

“It will be a challenge but we believe with the assistance of the department we can even improve on the quality of services,” said Jonathan, who has been working at the clinic for 15 years.

Health boss Dr Siva Pillay said under the NHI, provincial health departments would be expected to generate a profit.

“If this is the case, it would mean that Life will be competing with us. So we could not give them a new lease,” he said.

On revenue generation, Pillay said: “We must explore innovative ways because we are faced with cost pressures and a declining subsidy because of competing imperatives of service delivery.”

The health boss said patients could be assured there would be no decline in the health standards as nothing was removed from the facility.

DA health spokesman and MPL John Cupido said at “face value” the venture was a good idea.

Cupido said the party would monitor the new unit with “cautious optimism”.

“It will be good to see if the department is capable of running such an initiative but at least this puts the province at the forefront of the NHI rollout,” he said. — michaelk@dispatch.co.za