Mccord’s stories revealed
MCCORD Hospital, a landmark part-private and part-state Durban facility, was in operation for well over a century before becoming a provincial specialist eye hospital in 2013.
Over the years, it earned a respected name as the “people’s hospital”. To commemorate and reflect on this achievement a book, The People’s Hospital: A History of Mccords, Durban, 1890s-1970s, is to be officially launched this month.
Written by University of Kwazulu-natal historians Professor Julie Parle, an honorary professor of history, and
Dr Vanessa Noble, a lecturer of historical studies, it was published by the Natal Society Foundation Trust.
Parle said the idea emanated from a research project started in 2006. “It was intended for the centenary commemorations of Mccord on May 1, 2009,” said Parle. “The hospital administration asked for a comprehensive and critical history that could contribute to and be a resource for reflection.”
She said a single volume would not do justice to Mccord’s many stories. This book covers Mccord’s background, through to an important turning point in its history in the 1970s.
The later story of Mccord’s – during the decades of apartheid, through the turmoil of civil war in Kwazulu-natal in the 1980s and early 1990s, the highs of the first years of democracy after 1994, the tragedy of HIV/AIDS and into the 21st century – are meant to be covered in a second book.
The research was conducted with the assistance of colleagues, student researchers, support and expertise from people at various archives, museums and former members of Mccord’s staff.
“This information, as well as hundreds of photographs gathered, has been brought together at Campbell Collections in Durban,” said Noble.
The hospital was named after Dr James B Mccord and his wife, Margaret Mellen Mccord. It was opened at its present site on the Ridge in Durban in 1909.
The Mccords were American congregationalist missionaries. Margaret was born in the-then Natal. She met James at Oberlin College, Ohio. They came to Natal in 1899, working first at Adams Mission.
With Durban growing, they saw a need for a hospital and opened the Beatrice Street Dispensary and a small cottage hospital in the same street in 1904.
Their plans for a bigger hospital were resisted by many whites, and for a time it had to operate under the name, “The Mission Nursing Home”. They employed Katie Makanya (whose life story is well known through the book, The Calling of Katie Makanya), as an interpreter, evangelist and cultural broker.
The second medical superintendent was Dr Alan B Taylor. According to Noble, “Mccord and Taylor were adamant that black South Africans should be able to acquire medical qualifications on a par with international standards. When black medical graduates trickled out of universities, one of their few – but valued – options was to do their internships at Mccord”.
Under the third and fourth medical superintendents, Drs Howard Christofersen and Cecil Orchard, Mccord Hospital pushed back against the apartheid government attempts to have it shut down or relocated as it was termed “a black hospital in a white area”.
It fought back, dodged
Group Areas laws, navigated financial ruin, and broke racial classification laws every day.
Parle added that it was popularly known as “Mccord Zulu Hospital” – but was never only a hospital for “Zulus”.
Many “Mccord’s people” changed the practice of medicine across southern Africa and some became leading international specialists, said Noble.
“Well-known names associated with the hospital include Drs Ralph Hendrickse, J L Njonkwe, Mary Malahlela, Mahomed Mayat, Krishna Somers and Zweli Mkhize (now Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs),” said Noble.
“Pioneering nurses also included Beatrice Gcabashe
(née Msimang), the first African registered nurse in Natal to obtain joint general nursing and midwifery registration.”
The hospital was supported by such luminaries as John Langalibele Dube, Chief Albert Luthuli and Selby Ngcobo.
The book can be downloaded free from http://www.natalia.org. za/nsf_books/mccordhospital. html
A trained Zulu nurse around 1911, above, and Mccord Hospital outpatients department in the 1960s, top. Left: Nurses at the annual candle lighting ceremony. Below left: Dr Alan B Taylor and Dr M G H Mayat.