There’s a certain poignancy to abandoned buildings. What memories were made within those walls? What circumstances led to the building’s vacancy? Today, we’ll take you on a tour through one of the world’s creepiest abandoned buildings, South Africa’s Kempton Park Hospital. While many toss around rumors that the hospital is haunted, the true horrors of this place are rooted in something more grounded in reality. Why was it abandoned in the first place?
A Brief History of the Kempton Park Hospital
Upon researching the Kempton Park Hospital, you’ll find conflicting information regarding when exactly it opened. However, we can reasonably conclude that it began operations between 1976 and 1978.
Located 30 minutes from Johannesburg, Gauteng—the largest city in all of South Africa—Kempton Park Hospital was a state-of-the-art facility. Equipped with 350 beds and millions of dollars’ worth of top-of-the-line machinery, the hospital was a staple of its community. This made it all the more surprising when the facility was mysteriously abandoned in 1997. Its expensive equipment and thousands of confidential patient files were left behind to collect dust.
A Community in Need
So, did research and investigation on buildings which were abandoned post 1994 (ANC) one of them being the Kempton Park Hospital— Sphithiphithi Evaluator (@_AfricanSoil) August 30, 2022
It was closed just after Christmas in 1996, early 1997, with medical scanners, equipment, beds, worth billions of rands inside, no explanation
According to a 2014 Eyewitness News article, the hospital played a vital role in Gauteng’s healthcare system. Since its closing, other local hospitals have been subject to overcrowding.
“As Gauteng’s ailing health system battles with repeated staff, equipment, and bed shortages, a multi-million rand facility has been left to slide into decay after it was abandoned 17 years ago.
The Kempton Park Hospital closed its doors the day after Christmas in 1997 with millions of rands worth of equipment locked inside, and there’s still no clear explanation as to why.Today, there’s not much left inside the hospital, with most of the equipment stolen over the years.”
So what happened? Let’s take a look at some of the facts.
“Doctor” Andre Esterhuizen
When questioning why the Kempton Park Hospital closed, many point to a man named Andre Esterhuizen. A high school dropout, Esterhuizen studied medicine independently. And in 1982, he was somehow able to convince job interviewers of his legitimacy as a doctor. He landed a pediatrician job at, yes, the Kempton Park Hospital. Employed until 1990, he treated thousands of patients, some of his treatments having disastrous consequences,
By the time he was found out and brought to trial, the damage was done. According to a Kempton Express article, he was convicted on three counts of culpable homicide, impersonating a doctor, and defrauding patients. The article details just some of his atrocities:
“One mother told the court her baby ended up with cerebral palsy after Esterhuizen did four lumber punches on the child while she was only four months old.
Another mother who testified against him said her daughter was born in April of 1988. She was normal but a month later the baby fell ill.
A doctor diagnosed meningitis and referred her to “Dr.” Esterhuizen. He confirmed the diagnosis and the girl was placed in an oxygen tank at Kempton Park Hospital.
He later put up a drip by making a small incision in the baby’s chest as he could not find a vein. Her lungs collapsed.”
Clearly, the hiring of “Doctor” Andre Esterhuizen was not a good look for the Kempton Park Hospital. The facility was clearly at fault for not only hiring him, but for keeping him employed despite his innumerable mistakes. Could he have something to do with the hospital’s closing? While many would be quick to say yes, keep in mind that his trial occurred in 1990, and the hospital did not close until 1997.
Conflicting Information from Gauteng’s Government
Another factor that may have contributed to the hospital’s closing was the Gauteng government’s plans to downgrade the province’s healthcare system (in an attempt to save money, of course). However, they supposedly put these plans on hold due to concerns from citizens.
As a 1996 Mail & Guardian article states, “The Gauteng government’s plans to close or downgrade nearly a third of its hospitals have been put on hold, pending further investigation.
The provincial health department, which has faced a barrage of criticism, says it is ‘sympathetic’ to calls from academics, unions and communities for more time to comment, and plans to assess arguments against the proposals.”
The article goes on to list hospitals that the Gauteng government planned to close. And yes, Kempton Park was one of them. Perhaps the government had not been so honest in its assurance that it would draw back from the plans to downgrade. Had they only made this assurance to appease concerned citizens?
This assumption is consistent with a statement made by one of the hospital’s former doctors. In an Eyewitness News video “Millions Lost in Abandoned Hospital,” an anonymous ex-employee of Kempton Park had the following to say: “It was the government’s decision to close down the hospital… the waste of equipment just didn’t phase them.”
Today, the Kempton Park Hospital has become a hot spot for urban explorers across the world. Security guards the hospital 24/7, but they are notorious for taking bribes. As cool a travel destination as the abandoned hospital is, it would serve a far greater purpose if it were reopened. Surrounding facilities have become overcrowded, unable to tend to the needs of an ever-increasing urban population.
Whether the hospital was closed due to the heinous acts of a pseudo-doctor or simply because of the government’s attempts to save money, it is truly a shame that the people of Johannesburg are now missing such a necessary healthcare resource.