St. Apollinaris hospital originally began as a clinic when the Mission of Centocow was founded in 1888. The clinic was run by the Precious Blood Sisters. Dr. Max Kohler, a trainee from the Medical Mission Institute in Wurzburg, worked at Centocow from 1925 to 1935.
In 1920, Fr. Apollinaris Schwamberger, a Marianhill Missionary, came to Centocow. He drew up the plans for the first hospital which was built by Brother Leodegar with the assistance of local workers, with the bricks being made locally. On the 23rd August 1930, the foundation stone was laid for "St. Joseph's" hospital, as it was supposed to be known. Since Fr. Apollinaris had suddenly died of an asthma attack and heart failure on 13 April 1936, the people insisted that the hospital be named "St. Apollinaris hospital" in grateful memory of their good Father and Parish Priest.
The central section of the hospital was completed at the end of 1938. On the 23 July 1938, the hospital was opened by Bishop Adalbero Fleischer in the presence of many guest, including Priests, Sisters, Farmers and Dr. McMurtie from St. Mary's hospital, Marianhill. Many africans joyfully witnessed this promised event.
Dr. Walker from Bulwer visited the hospital weekly. Sr. Savina Gob C.P.S. was Maron from July 1938 to June 1949. She was also responsible for the administration work at the hospital. Assisting Sr. Gob was Sr. Chrysostoma Scheb, a German trained nurse. Sr. Christilda Buchter C.P.S. was the cook. The sisters gave a helping hand with the domestic work.
Some of the local women received hospital training as private nurses, new doctors came and went. Dr. N. Barlin and Dr. Beck stayed in residence and were at the hospital from 1951 to 1955. Dr. Grantham from Bulwer and Dr. McKenzie from Donnybrook took turns in attending to the hospital patients until Dr. Hickley arrived in 1958, he stayed until 1964 when Dr. Moffat took over.
In 1950, an electric 'lightning plant' was installed at the hospital, this made the installation of better equipment possible. The first x-ray unit was installed. A special dark room was built in 1958. A strong 'Lister Engine' provided power for electrical equipment in the hospital.
Extension of the building
In August 1951, Brother Berthold C.M.M began to build the nurses home which included a spacious lecture hall. This was completed at the end of 1953. In the same year, a top storey was added to the hospital.
In 1953, three F.S.F sisters, daughters of St. Francis, came to nurse and assist with household work. 14 African nurses and 10 domestic workers assisted with the daily nursing duties. The driver, Mr. Henry Msiya was appointed as the first ambulance driver. Secretarial work was in the hands of the C.P.S. sisters until Sr. Adelfrieda was needed at Christ the King hospital and Mrs. Peterson, wife of a military doctor, took over on the 21st July 1980.
Sr. Idmara Thienel C.P.S was the matron until July 1962, she was succeeded by Sr. Edgara Schmitt C.P.S until 1967 when Sr. Ferdinanda Ploners C.P.S took office. Sr. Miltranda Rolbieker took over the mobile service in 1974. The last C.P.S. matron Sr. Winfried Fockele, commenced duties on 15 January 1977 untill she requested to be pensioned on 31 March 1999.
Dr. Ferdinanda Ploner C.P.S started to expand the nursing services and started clinics at Lourdes, Entsikeni, Riverside, Gala, Hlabeni and Immunisation services at Kilmon, Kevelaer and Mahehle. Sr. Hildegard Motaung C.P.S. came from Mount Frere hospital in May 1977, she took over the OPD and shared in the mobile services.
In May 1959 the Umzimkulu river flooded, destroying part of the bridge. The hospital was only connected to the 'outside world' by telephone. The old two seat Cage - from the Trappist Time could bring provisions and patients to and from the hospital. Brother Robert Brunner C.M.M repaired the bridge with 'relief funds'.
February 1977: The flood destroyed the bridge almost beyond repair, but with the help of His Grace Archbishop D. Hurley O.M. and with financial help from "Miserior Germany" the bridge was once again repaired and re-opened in August the same year.
September 27, 1987: Another flood damaged the bridge. An army bridge came in as a temporary measure. The old one, made of wood, could no longer be repaired and so a concrete bridge was built, and completed in 1988.
1958: The house in which the doctor lived (the old priest's house) was renovated and ready for Dr. Hickley on 1st July 1958. After that the Chapel and the staff quarters were renovated.
1960: Two prefabricated houses were erected for the night duty staff and a dining room for domestic staff
1962: A 1200 gallon water reservoir and was built at the Umzimkulu river to provide water for the hospital. The staff quarters were renovated in the same year.
1966: A home for domestic staff was built and a cottage for waiting mothers.
1967: The out-patients building and laboratory was built
1970: The sewage system for the hospital and surrounding areas was completed.
1971: A regular bus service was introduced to Centecow, assisting patients coming to the hospital
1972: Hot water boilers for hospital and staff were installed.
Training of nurses
In 1938 six girls were trained as nurse aids. Soon a nursing school for auxiliary nurses was opened by the SANC. When the school closed in 1962 the last four Auxiliary midwives had completed their training. In early 1980, the school reopened to train Assistant Nurses. Only one group of 12 enrolled nurses completed the two year course in 1996 - four of these were accepted at Northdale hospital for the bridging course to become Registered Nurses. A new system of training closed the school for a second time.
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