The bloodiest war ever fought on South African soil, namely the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902), resulted in the birth of the Zuid-Afrikaans Hospitaal en Diakonessenhuis.
By 1904 the Boers were finding it difficult to be admitted to the Victoria Cottage Hospital in Pretoria, which was a strictly British military hospital. They needed their own hospital where they could feel at home and be treated in their own language. And so the Zuid-Afrikaans Hospital started out as a 6-bed nursing facility in the home of General CF Beyers in Sunnyside. The name of the hospital was “Het Hollands Hospetaaltje”, mainly because of the funding being received from Holland.
An interest-free loan of £75 resulted in the Hospital being moved to a site on the corner of Berg and Walker Streets in 1912. The name then changed to “Het Zuid-Afrikaans Hospitaal en Diakonessenhuis” to indicate a nursing facility where Afrikaans would be spoken. The word Diakonessenhuis (Deaconesses’ home) was included in the name to indicate the Christian nature of the institution. The hospital was cast in the same mould as the Dutch Deaconesses’ homes where it was customary for the deaconesses to care for the poor. (Although times have changed, the word is still kept in the Hospital’s name today to commemorate and preserve the origin and noble purpose.)
In 1936, Edmond Francis Bourke (then Mayor of Pretoria) sold 34 of the best stands in the suburb of Muckleneuk to the hospital management, who managed to secure a loan of £3 400 to buy the stands. The cost of building the hospital was £20 000, which was funded by Dr CJK van Aalst from Holland (£7 500), the poet Jan Celliers (£1 000) and many more well-known donors. In 1936 the Zuid-Afrikaans Hospital’s doors opened on the site where it stands today, as a facility with a 32-bed capacity, an operating theatre and X-ray facilities.
Ward A was built in 1951, giving the hospital a capacity of 53 beds. The Bronberg Pharmacy was built, the X-ray facilities were extended and 3 extra surgical theatres were built.
A children’s ward was added, the kitchen was extended, more beds were added to Ward A and 3 more surgical theatres opened.
Ward C was added, as well as 2 further operating theatres. The bed capacity was now 130.
A nurses’ hostel was built to provide residential housing for the nursing staff. This hostel is no longer in use.
One of the first crèches at a South African hospital was started for the children of hospital staff.
An ICU (Intensive/High Care Unit) was added.
There were further extensions to the hospital and the Gerard Braak wing with consulting rooms was opened.
The hospital is now 100 years old! A new wing to the hospital has been added, containing a brand new entrance, a pharmacy, a Cardiovascular Unit with a state-of-the-art ‘cath lab’, 2 more operating theatres and 18 ICU beds. All wards have also been upgraded.