History of Saint Aidans Hospital, Durban

Hospitals in the Durban area have a history created by the social, cultural and political context in which they are situated in. The ancient buildings of these hospital tells a story of our history. The landmark of these buildings had indeed stood the test of time. The Saint Aidan Mission Hospital in Durban is one such hospital.

It was a passionate seed sown by Reverend Dr Lancelot Parker Booth who was an English doctor who came to Durban and was discontent with the working and unhealthy conditions of the indentured Indian labourers. He wanted to assist them, so he set up a missionary school, to uplift these people by educating and spiritually inspiring them.

Although he did not start the hospital, he played a massive role by initiative and showing interest, he thus paved the way for a medical facility that has endured history in Durban. He set up his missionary school at 49 Cross street. In 1886 the Saint Aidan Church was completed, however he felt there was a more need for medical services so he set up a dispensary at the backyard of his missionary house. He left Durban in 1906 but there was still a growing need for a medical facility as the Indian population grew.

In 1914 Reverend C.M.C. Bone arrived from India and joined a kind hearted nurse by the name of Miss Cole in starting a medical facility. They were aware of the lack of medical facilities and services, and were determined to change the situation. They hired a house opposite the mission house and started with about 9 to 16 bed hospital, where Miss Cole even offered her service for free. In 1916 a private hospital was thus created initially offered services across races and genders for women and children but later, however when the lease expired in 1923 they were forced to find new premises and in 1924 the Booth Mission house was occupied at 49 Cross Street.

By the year 1932 a hospital building committee was started by members from the medical profession and they bought a piece of land in Centenary Road to extend its premises. In July 4th 1935 the hospital was officially opened. The hospital’s central building was rectangle in shape, with a square as a garden.The hospital had 100 beds. The funds were contributed from the Natal Provincial Administration and the public through street collection. In 1952 the St Luke Chapel adjoined the hospital giving it religious touch.

The hospital now admits all races, and employs multicultural races. In 1960 however the hospital faced political problems with the Group Areas Act where the hospital was noted as a special zone and the hospital board had to seek permission to further extend their premises. In 1966 the new St Aidan church was built adjoining the hospital and by 1977, the hospital started a R5 million project which was to be completed by 1984. The hospital operated as a private hospital till the year 2004, when it was handed over to the to KwaZulu Natal Department Of Health on a 10 year lease.

Written By: Yoveshine Pillay
Reference: Department of Health

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