A new book, The People’s Hospital, A History of McCord’s, Durban (1890s-1970s), was launched on Saturday, 14 April, at the Killie Campbell Museum in Essenwood. The book commemorates the prominent Berea hospital, McCord Provincial Eye Hospital, which was a beacon of hope during the apartheid regime. The hospital offered non-discriminatory health care to patients and unbiased posts to doctors.
In attendance was eThekwini Deputy Mayor, Fawzia Peer who said a few words of thanks.
“I want to take this opportunity and humbly thank the historian and the author for their contribution. I must say, they have taken us into history, one that one would have forgotten and I must say, it’s a mightily big job. Accolades go to you, its hard work. Thank you so much from the municipality,” said Peer.
Authors Julie Parle and Vanessa Noble spoke about the importance of recording McCords’s history at the launch.
Parle highlighted the human struggles that were woven throughout the story.
“I think the thing that stands out for me the most is that this is very much a set of stories that are deeply human and deeply personal, but ‘The People’s Hospital’ is also the story of not only this part of the world, of Durban, but also of KwaZulu- Natal and of South Africa, right from the 19th century through to the 20th century and I think that we can see very clearly in this book the devastation that racism and apartheid brought, but we can also see how people, on occasion were able to reach across those divides with a common purpose,” said Parle.
Noble explained that she had joined the project once the ball was rolling.
“I got involved in 2006 when I got back from doing my PHD overseas. My colleague, Julie Parle and another colleague from the department at UKZN had started the project already so they brought me on as one of the writers and researchers for the project,” she said.
Noble added that she hoped the book would do justice to the story of McCords.
“I am glad that I got involved, it’s a fantastic project, we just hope that we’ve done justice to it, because there’s a slot of interest, many people are invested in it, because they lived their lives there, they worked there, they trained there,” she said.
Dr Jay Mannie, the current CEO for McCord’s Hospital, now called McCord Provincial Eye Hospital said that the hospital has retained it’s core values through the years.
“I’ve been there for 31 years this year, so I know the old history, the past and the present of the hospital and this book has been very special to me, very emotional to me because I’ve seen the hospital go through good times and bad times in the department of health. The usual challenges of funding and staffing, but the positive thing is that we’ve managed to keep the ethos the same- we have prayer every morning and the preaching of God’s word,” said Dr Mannie.
Former McCord General Practitioner, Dr Beth Spooner was at the launch, recalling her experience of McCord were she undertook her internship in 1994, worked in the vocational training programme in 1995-1996 and spent time in the out patients department in 2003.
“McCord taught us to care for our patients. Care was modeled so well there, you really saw how it worked so beautifully,” said Dr Spooner.