Presidential “hospital” project put on hold


The Minister of Public Works, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, has suspended construction of a dedicated hospital for the president and his ministers on the Bryntirion government estate in Pretoria, the Sunday Times reports.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde said in a statement the project would be reviewed in the light of the proposed upgrade of the military hospital in Pretoria, where senior government leaders are traditionally treated. The government has faced a public outcry since it emerged from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget that a R200-million upgrade of the president’s residence would be matched by a private gym and a private hospital nearby.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde denied reports in some newspapers that the hospital was to cost R362-million but did not say what the actual budget was. The Estimates of National Expenditure, released by the National Treasury last month, shows work began in January on an “executive military health facility” and was projected to cost R62 million, with an allocation of R13 million for the state financial year starting next month.

Calling it a “first aid centre”, not a hospital, she said the funds were earmarked in her budget and were not expected to come from the Presidency or the Department of Health. She said the defence force, which is responsible for the medical care of current and former presidents, had first asked in January 2006 for a “dignitary care facility” to be built at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria. Since then, there had been a “lull.”
“In view of the refurbishment at 1 Military Hospital, there is a need to assess the current requirement in totality,” she said. “Whilst the minister would like to state categorically that she is not opposed to the establishment of a first aid centre at the Bryntirion estate, the minister is engaging with officials in the departments to assess the value and the scope of the project in the light of the priorities of the current administration,” her office said.

Cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi said at the weekend the only first aid facility on the estate was in a caravan parked on the property.

The Defence Force sent former President Nelson Mandela to a private hospital in Johannesburg and not the military hospital in Pretoria when he was flown back from Cape Town with a lung infection recently.