Source Google Maps.
Grey’s Hospital is now at the centre of SA’s Covid-19 response. Source Google Maps.
  • Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg was designated as KwaZulu-Natal's centre to handle Covid-19 months before the first case in SA was detected just 10km away.
  • It was selected based on its previous preparations to handle highly infections and dangerous diseases such as Ebola.
  • It typically houses around 10 people on ventilation in its ICU.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.


When South Africa's first known Covid-19 patient walked into doctor's rooms to seek help, he happened to be just 11 kilometres away from one of the designated centres for dealing with a novel coronavirus outbreak.

Source Google Maps.
Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. Source Google Maps.

Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg is now at the centre of SA's management of the disease, with several people in the KwaZulu-Natal town of Hilton self-isolating after contact with the man.

As of Friday late morning no other positive cases of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus had been confirmed in South Africa, but tests were underway and tracer teams active in the province. 

See also: Epicentre Hilton, KZN - here is everything we know about the novel coronavirus in SA

Here's how Grey's Hospital came to be at the centre of SA's novel coronavirus response.

Grey's was designated a Covid-19 centre months ago – and just happens to be in the same neighbourhood as SA's first case.

Source Google Maps.
Grey's Hospital is around 11km from Hilton. Source Google Maps.

The Pietermaritzburg hospital is just 11 kilometres away from the doctor's rooms where South Africa's first known Covid-19 patient went when he started to feel ill on 3 March.

Grey's was selected as a central point of treatment for KwaZulu-Natal in January, based on its facilities and capabilities.

The designated hospitals in other provinces are:

  • Limpopo: Polokwane Hospital
  • Mpumalanga: Rob Ferreira Hospital
  • Gauteng: Charlotte Maxeke Hospial and Steve Biko Hospital
  • North West: Klerksdorp Hospital
  • Free State: Pelonomi Hospital
  • Northern Cape: Kimberley Hospital
  • Eastern Cape: Livingston Hospital
  • Western Cape: Tygerberg Hospital


The hospital dealt with a Covid-19 scare case in February.

In early February a 28-year-old who had returned from Hangzhou in China and developed a fever and signs of respiratory disease was transferred to Grey's, The Witness reported.

That turned out to be one of several false alarms, among well over a hundred people who similarly tested negative for the novel coronavirus before the first confirmed case.


Grey's is prepared to deal with highly infectious and extremely dangerous diseases - including Ebola.

Grey's Hospital prepares for ebola
Photos from the Grey’s Hospital internal newsletter of a drill for dealing with Viral Hemorrhagic Fever in July 2018.

Grey's is a roughly 500-bed tertiary hospital, with specialised diagnostic and treatment facilities. Though it offers a 24-hour emergency service, it is intended to receive referrals of serious cases from other institutions.

It was chosen over regional hospital Addington – which is much closer to Durban's airport – as the designated coronavirus facility based on its previous preparations for handling of Ebola cases.

According to the hospital’s last annual report, it typically accommodated nine to ten patients on ventilation at any one time in its 11-bed intensive care unit (ICU).


It was the oldest hospital in South Africa still on its original site until the mid-80s.

Grey's Hospital in 1910
Grey's Hospital in 1910. (Photo via the South African Medical Journal, Volume 48, Issue 5, Feb 1974)

There are hospitals in South Africa that were established first, and later moved to other locations, but Grey’s was the oldest hospital in South Africa still at the location where it was first built – for 130 years.

In 1984 it too moved to a new location and "imposing new premises".

The original hospital was built in the 1850s, funded by a £1,000 endowment to the Pietermaritzburg city council, shortly after Natal formally became a British colony, in return for the city providing the land.

Before it was built, rich people were treated at home, and poor people at the local jail.

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See also: Epicentre Hilton, KZN - here is everything we know about the novel coronavirus in SA