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Vandals strip Natalspruit Hospital of metal

LESS than two months after being officially closed, the old Natalspruit Hospital in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, is being stripped of infrastructure by thieves who want to recycle metal.

In mid-August, Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu announced that the process of taking patients to the new hospital in Vosloorus and decommissioning the old facility was going "smoothly". Mahlangu said the old hospital, built on dolomitic land, would be decontaminated, secured and later demolished when all equipment that could not be taken by other hospitals has been disposed of.

But a visit to the hospital yesterday revealed the extent of the damage caused by vandals.

Access into the facility through the main gate seemed easy.

Cars were not searched and vehicles gaining access to the hospital were not screened.

A few metres away from the security guards' booth, a pile of scrap confiscated from thieves lay in the open. Anything made of steel was the target - frames, drawers and filing cabinets.

Just a few minutes later, security guards emerged from a corridor with a man handcuffed and bleeding from the head. They detained him in their room while waiting for the police.

Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department had been warned about the situation getting out of hand and were on the scene to help the guards.

Later, a police vehicle arrived and started patrolling the hospital. Out of the blue, two men emerged about 50m from the entrance at full speed being chased by the same police vehicle. They could not stop them.

Sowetan understands that the guards at the hospital have not been paid since August.

Out of frustration, the guards decided to embark on a go-slow. This meant that certain parts of the hospital were not guarded as usual.

Thieves realised this and have exploited the situation. Despite the go-slow, at the entrance of the hospital there were still youths carrying their CVs because they heard that more security guards were needed.

But they were slightly put off when one of the guards said: "My sister, you want to chase thugs with a stick like me. Some of the thugs are carrying guns and we have to chase them with sticks. Think about it."

The department of health referred all questions to the department of infrastructure development.

Yesterday, the department called on the community to help stop the vandalism at the facility.

The department said in a statement that although it had engaged police and Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department and beefed up security, "the security of both the individuals entering the premises and the property itself is essentially a community responsibility".

newsdesk@sowetan.co.za

 

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