Somerset Hospital (Cape Town)

Coordinates: 33°54′17″S 18°25′01″E / 33.9047°S 18.4169°E / -33.9047; 18.4169
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Somerset Hospital
Western Cape Department of Health
Somerset Hospital (Cape Town) is located in Cape Town
Somerset Hospital (Cape Town)
Shown in Cape Town
LocationVictoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Coordinates33°54′17″S 18°25′01″E / 33.9047°S 18.4169°E / -33.9047; 18.4169
Care systemDepartment of Health
FundingPublic hospital
Affiliated universityUniversity of Cape Town
ListsHospitals in South Africa

The Somerset Hospital in the Green Point area of Cape Town, South Africa opened in 1864 and has been declared a provincial heritage site.[1]

The hospital replaced one of the same name in Chiapinni Street,[1] which had been founded by Dr Samuel Bailey in 1818 as the first civilian hospital in Cape Town.[2] It was named after Lord Charles Somerset the governor of the Cape Colony who gave land for the construction.[3] The Chavonnes Battery was used as an isolation and convalescent wing.[4]

The cornerstone for the new hospital was laid on 18 August 1859 by the Cape Governor Sir George Grey.[5] In addition to the appointment of medical staff, nurses were recruited from the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, St Thomas' Hospital in London including Sister Helen Bowden, who in 1877 became the first fully qualified nurse to be appointed as Matron of Somerset Hospital. Subsequently, the hospital established its own nurse training school,[3] becoming the first hospital to train non-white nurses.[6]

From 1918 until 1937, when the Groote Schuur Hospital opened it was the main academic hospital of the University of Cape Town.[1] A new West Wing opened in 1973 for white patients.[7] The old building was renamed the north wing, not because of their position but the N meant for non-white patients and the W of West Wing signified that it was for Whites.[3] The high incidence of HIV infections amongst the patients led to the establishment of the hospital as a prime referral centre for the treatment of AIDS and the first antiretroviral distribution centre was established there in 2005.[3]

Since then various plans have been announced for the development of the grounds including hotels, offices and residential accommodation.[8] The hospital is also home to the Cape Medical Museum.[9][10]

In 2008 the hospital appealed for funds from local businesses to establish a new trauma unit and a ward for women suffering from a spontaneous miscarriage.[11] In 2010 it opened a new measles ward following a rise in measles cases in Cape Town.[12] In 2010 a studio was built, along with its own lift, on the top of the hospital for use by BBC presenters during 2010 FIFA World Cup matches at the nearby stadium.[13] Additionally in 2010 plans were announced to move the hospital to a new site in the northern sector of the city, to serve the densely populated West Coast region.[14]

Coat of arms[edit]

The hospital assumed a coat of arms in the late 1950s and registered it at the Bureau of Heraldry in 1970 : Per pale, dexter Gules, three annulets Or and sinister barry of six Azure and Argent. The registered blazon incorrectly gives the sinister side as "barry of six Argent and Azure".[15]


  1. ^ a b c "New Somerset Hospital". University of Cape Town. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  2. ^ Worden, Nigel; E. Van Heyningen; Vivian Bickford-Smith (1998). Cape Town: the making of a city : an illustrated social history. pp. 122–23. ISBN 978-90-6550-161-5.
  3. ^ a b c d Levy, Norman (June 2010). "Somerset Hospital: South Africa's oldest hospital" (PDF). South African Medical Journal. 100 (6): 358–60. doi:10.7196/SAMJ.3988. PMID 20529432.
  4. ^ "V&A Waterfront, Cape Town". SA Venues. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Somerset Hospital Celebrates 150 years - Open Day (17 April)". WhatsOn SA. Archived from the original on 11 February 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
  6. ^ "New Somerset Hospital Celebrates 150 Years". Cape Gateway. 19 May 2009. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  7. ^ "South Africa's oldest hospital". South African Medical Journal. 100 (6). June 2010. ISSN 0256-9574. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
  8. ^ Baumann and Winter Heritage Assessors (June 2003). "Initial Archaeological Assessment of the Somerset Hospital Precinct, Green Point, Cape Town" (PDF). Cape Town government.
  9. ^ "Culture and Heritage". Cape Town. Archived from the original on 19 October 2010. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
  10. ^ "Cape Medical Museum". RSA Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Cape Town's Somerset Hospital in urgent need of funds". Biz 28 May 2008. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Update on Somerset hospital measles ward". South African Government. 7 March 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  13. ^ Behr, Mike (20 March 2010). "City's BBC Coup". Weekend Argus.
  14. ^ Makinana, Andisiwe. "Somerset Hospital to Move". Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  15. ^[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]