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On Thursday morning, protesters allegedly burnt a state-of-the-art medical facility to the ground in protest against a conversion of section of the hospital into a Covid-19 treatment facility…

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has lambasted the actions of the protesters who burned down the R6m building at Catherine Booth Hospital.

In a statement issued by the department, Simelane-Zulu said the centre, which had recently been rebuilt after another protest fire three years ago, was targeted by sections of the community. This was allegedly over protests that part of the hospital had been converted into a Covid-19 treatment facility.

Simelane-Zulu said “The Department has a huge and urgent responsibility to provide as many beds as possible to treat patients with Covid–19, and does not need permission or consultation with any member of the community to use health facilities as it deems fit.”

“We are in a crisis. This is a pandemic that all of us are faced with. And the Department has a responsibility to ensure that it provides all the beds that are needed, so that those who are Covid-19 positive get the assistance they need.”

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Shots fired, security guard injured

The incident, which also saw shots being fired, took place between midnight and 1am, and left a security guard with a facial injury after he was hit by a missile.

It has prompted the MEC to consider invoking a process to close down the hospital.

“We’re going to continue using this hospital for COVID as and when it is necessary for us to do so. So, if the community does not allow us to do that, it means they do not need this hospital. So, we might then need to go back to the Premier and request that this facility be closed down, because we’re not going to have a facility that will be a white elephant and not be utilised.”

The 127-bed Catherine Booth Hospital currently has 39 patients, three of whom are in isolation and receiving treatment for Covid-19, while another two are in quarantine, awaiting their results,  said the statement from the KZN Health Department.