Located in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal’s Umgungundlovu District, Edendale Hospital wasn’t always the first place patients turned for medical help – if they could avoid it. Long queues and bad staff attitudes often awaited those who did turn to the 900-bed hospital for help.

Nompilo Mchunu collects her chronic medication at the hospital monthly and said that previously even simple procedures meant long wait times.

“The Medical Out Patient Department was the worst of them all,” she said. “We would sit for hours, even days, at times in order to get assistance even for things as simple as getting your vitals (like blood pressure or weight) taken.”

According to Mchunu, if patients complained about long queues, staff and nurses would say that those who did not want to wait should go to a private clinic.

“(The staff) would tell you that they are overworked and underpaid,” Mchunu told OurHealth. “Sometimes you would witness people dying while they waited for a bed in order to be admitted.”

Now, Mchunu said she’s seen a change.

“We are witnessing a change in the staff attitude and the hospital looks cleaner,” she said. “Even the security guards are more approachable.”

The hospital recently hosted an open day showcasing its services, including gynaecology, speech therapy and dentistry, as well as its newly renovated wards.

As renovation work continues on the wards, long-time patient Zuzile Mbelu says the construction gives her a new sense about coming to the hospital.

“Although some work is still in progress, coming to the hospital now gives me so much hope,” she told OurHealth.

Traditional and local leaders, school children and patients were among the community members who attended the open day.

Umgungundlovu District is among 11 National Health Insurance pilot districts, in which the government is piloting a National Health Insurance programme to close the gap between private and public health care services.

“We are doing all the best we can to serve our community and patients,” said Edendale hospital spokesperson Samke Mncube said.