Sickening scenes at old hospital site

The houses were built right on the boundary of the hospital site, and with the fencing stolen, it gives easy access to the homes.

Residents living on the boundary of the old GF Jooste hospital site said since it closed down, the vacant building has attracted all the wrong elements, with vandals and thieves now also targeting their homes.

The houses in Amandla Street, Tambo Village, were built right on the side border of the old hospital, and residents fear for their safety, as thieves have even stolen the bricks of the building.

Gaironeesa Booley said since there is very little left to steal from the building, thieves have broken into her home three times.

On Thursday February 16, her home was targeted for the fourth time, when a burglar tried to gain entry into her home while they were sleeping.

The security gate at her front door was damaged when someone tried to break in during the early morning hours. “It’s terrible. We are constantly living in fear. They put our lives in danger. Our roof is already damaged because of some building rubble that fell on it while the vandals were busy ripping out building material from the hospital. We have replaced our vibracrete wall three times already, but every time the slabs are stolen. We have also closed up our back door with concrete, because they kept coming in through there. One night they even tried to knock that out as well. Now that wall – that is covering where our back door used to be – is full of cracks. My family and I have been living here for nine years, and it was never this bad – until the hospital closed down,” Ms Booley said.

Betty Meveni, whose house is just opposite Ms Booley’s, said when she spoke out against the wrongdoings of the vandals, they told her that the hospital did not belong to her, so she had no say. “Before the hospital closed down, we had no problems like this. Now you find youngsters loitering and people dump here now, and I even caught a youngster defecating on the premises and I scolded him. Most of them get crazy from the drugs they use and then they come and break into people’s houses. We have complained to the police so many times, but they do nothing. When you report a case, they cross-question you that’s the victim, instead of the perpetrators. Everyone in this community must stand up against the perpetrators. It can’t go on like this. The parents of these youngters must also stop standing up for the wrongdoings of their children. They even fight with the security on the premises. These securities also fear for their lives, and they now stay at the police station when they are expected to work night shift,” Ms Meveni said.

She added that the community want the hospital to be rebuilt on the site. “We want a hospital here. We don’t have a car. We are far from the other hospitals, and the ambulance service don’t go into certain areas. Everyone knew that it was a bad idea to close the hospital. Heideveld is a community health care centre and their trauma unit is not equipped to deal with the all the emergencies. They have too little staff and the facility is too small. They also take patients with serious mental disabilities there, and I know of at least one case where another patient was attacked by someone with a mental disability. I’ve also seen how men and women must lay in the same ‘ward’ at Heideveld’s trauma unit. We are struggling here. We are traumatised, and our pleas fall on deaf ears. It’s like we are nothing – but are human beings too,” Ms Meveni said.

The Athlone News asked the City of Cape Town how its Problem Building by-law can be implemented in this case. According to the City’s definition, a “problem building” includes any building or portion of a building: that appears to have been abandoned by the owner with or without the consequence; that rates or other service charges are not being paid; that is derelict in appearance, overcrowded or is showing signs of becoming unhealthy, unsanitary, unsightly or objectionable; that is the subject of written complaints in respect of criminal activities, including drug dealings and prostitution; that is illegally occupied; where refuse or waste material is accumulated, dumped, stored or deposited with the exception of licensed waste disposal facilities; or that is partially completed or structurally unsound and is a threat or danger to the safety of the general public. The owner of the building could face a fine of up to R300 000.

In this case, the Western Cape provincial government is the owner of the building. Priya Reddy, the City spokesperson, did not answer the Athlone News’ questions directly, and was only willing to state that: “The City of Cape Town has noted increasing concerns about the state of the Old GF Jooste Hospital site. Officials from various departments have been on site and have noted the deterioration of the building. City Health is already putting plans in place to block-bait the premises, as well as the surrounding area to curb the potential occurrence of rodents and associated health risks. In terms of the general state of the building, we are engaging the Western Cape Government as the owners of the site, in a bid to ensure public safety but also to prevent further degradation of site.”

According to Byron la Hoe, the spokesperson for the provincial department of Public Works and Transport , the department “aligns itself with law enforcement agencies to prevent these activities from occurring”. He added: “But, to date, attempts haven’t yielded sufficiently positive results. Given the current climate in the Manenberg area, security personnel are fearing for their lives. The Department of Public Works and Transport (DPWT) is planning on securing the site by erecting fences and lighting. Securing the site and improving safety measures on site will require a mandatory procurement process. We are therefore unable to disclose an exact timeframe for these interventions. No immediate decision has yet been made by relevant authorities on the future development of the site. DTPW is preparing the necessary documentation to ensure a resolution to the future of the site at the earliest possibility.”

Meanwhile, Premier Helen Zille said in her state of the province address (SOPA), that a regional hospital is needed for Manenberg. “Our Department of Health’s planning indicates that a regional hospital, a necessity for future healthcare demand, will require seven hectares of land, as it will comprise 550 beds – much larger than each of our district hospitals in Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha,” Ms Zille said.

She added that a request for proposals will also be issued by the provincial Department of Public Works this year to use all or part of the former hospital site on Duinefontein Road for skills and community development use.