"This wonderful hospital for Europeans, the biggest hospital south of the Equator"
Rod of Asclepius above an entrance to the old Johannesburg Hospital
Public DomainRod of Asclepius above an entrance to the old Johannesburg Hospital - Credit: Kerri

The mining camp that subsequently became Johannesburg was proclaimed in September 1886.  The need for basic health facilities was quickly apparent.  The government donated an area of land immediately to the north of the mining camp, on what subsequently became known as Hospital Hill. The foundation stone for the Johannesburg General Hospital was laid on 29 March 1889, and the first permanent hospital buildings were opened a year later. 

The Ronald Mackenzie Block, Hillbrow Hospital
Public DomainThe Ronald Mackenzie Block, Hillbrow Hospital - Credit: Kerri

The facility started out with 130 beds.  Several new wings were added over the next few decades, including staff quarters, operating theatres, an outpatients building and a dispensary block.  In 1939, a large central structure, the Ronald Mackenzie Block, was erected, bringing the total beds in the complex to 1,666. At the time, the hospital was unmatched in the region for its luxury accommodation and medical expertise.

In 1983, a new Johannesburg General Hospital was erected on Parktown Ridge. The original hospital, by then known as Hillbrow hospital, went into decline. Hillbrow Hospital is currently being extensively renovated and restored, as part of a new Hillbrow Health Precinct development.