Mccord’s sto­ries re­vealed

Sunday Tribune - - HERALD - DOREEN PREMDEV

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.

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