Zithulele Hospital

Originally a mission hospital, and retaining some of this ethos, Zithulele Hospital is situated in a deeply rural part of the beautiful Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape. It is a 147 bed district hospital providing primary health care services for a catchment area of 130,000 people. Although the hospital was almost closed in 2006, the extraordinary work of Drs. Ben and Taryn Gaunt and Karl and Sally le Roux has transformed the hospital into a model of excellence in rural healthcare delivery. The Hospital is efficiently run with a small, but motivated, staff that puts patients first, providing high quality district hospital services to the community and support to local clinics.

A part of the mission of Zithulele Hospital and the doctors supporting it is to address health challenges in the community through prevention and address the concurrent ills of poverty, unemployment, and lack of education. The Oliver Tambo District, in which the hospital lies, is one of the poorest rural areas in South Africa. Unemployment is officially 77% and the average income is less than $164 per household per month. Only 9% of households have access to electricity and a little over a quarter to piped water. Transport is another major problem – over 15% of people live more than an hour from their nearest clinic, while over 35% live more than an hour from the nearest hospital. A return trip to the hospital costs as much as 10% of their monthly household income for some patients.

Dr. Rotheram joined the efforts of Zithulele hospital in their outreach efforts through the Mentor Mothers Zithulele programme, which is also in partnership with Philani. Dr. Rotheram has known Doctors Karl and Sally le Roux for several years through her connection with Dr. Ingrid le Roux. The collaboration of all three groups came about through their discussions of the major health challenges in Zithulele and how best these could be addressed at the individual and community levels. Mentor Mothers Zithulele combines the home visiting methods of the Philani Plus (+) programme with the collaboration, cooperation, and support of the Zithulele hospital.