From the foundation of the Trappist Monastery in 1882 in Mariannhill, the sick were brought to the brothers who had some medical knowledge. In 1918 the big influenza epidemic brought about the realization that a hospital was needed. In 1921 three mud houses were built at the present location of St Mary’s Hospital and the sisters were invited to take over the nursing. Storm and rain washed these humble beginnings away three times. The slow progress in erecting a hospital building is attributed to the simultaneous building of churches, schools and workshops by the brothers. But in 1925 the foundation stone was laid, leading in 1927 to the opening of the Hospital with a bed capacity of 45 where the first three German trained sisters worked alongside local women. Dr K.F. MacMurtrie, who was interested in the welfare of Mariannhill and the surrounding district, offered his help to the missionaries and people living in an area of 150 km on horseback and jeep. He became the first Medical Officer of the Hospital, a post he held until 1951 when Dr J Broukhart took over assisted by his wife Dr G Gaering, who took on the Obstetric and Gynaecological work. The sisters had been encouraged to be South African trained and so Sr Salvatoris and Sr Conradine after finishing their training at St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban took over the administration of St Mary’s. Gradual the Hospital grew, adding in 1934 a nursing school offering a diploma in general nursing. In 1963 a school for midwives opened offering a one year diploma in midwifery.

The small hospital has undergone many changes, weathered storms and tribulations as well as financial difficulties but was able to adapt and evolve to its present state as a 200-bed, level-one Hospital.

Statistics   Patients






72 431

51 179

Antenatal Clinic


25 755

13 157



14 012

19 730



4 264

5 125

As the number of patients grew, so did the need for more nursing staff to be trained. These are the number of nurses trained from 1934 to 2008:

General Diploma in Nursing


Diploma in Midwifery


Certification as Enrolled Nurse


From its inception St Mary’s Hospital aimed to cater for the health care needs of the needy and poor of its surroundings. Cash paying patients in the hospital’s private wing as well as patients covered through the workmen’s compensation fund and medical aid schemes contributed to some extend to the expansion of the Hospital and thus allowed its staff to serve the poor through varied health-related missionary activities.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic challenged the Hospital as early as 1987. The response was the roll-out of an early prevention programme. The increasing worldwide response demanding dignified living conditions and providing basic necessities for life and compassionate care was picked up by St Mary’s leading to the initiation of the Community Outreach Centre, the Rotary Palliative Care Centre, the CMMB “Born to Life” PMTCT Programme, and the Ithemba (Hope) HIV/AIDS Clinic. The effect and impact of the epidemic on St Mary’s Hospital, its surrounding communities and the whole staff has taken on enormous proportions.

Since 1996 the Hospital is legally structured as a Trust and has a staff complement of about 600.

The work of St Mary’s Hospital continues to rest on two pillars of strength:

  1. Quality holistic care following Christ’s mandate, “What you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done to me”.
  2. Education that empowers women in self-reliance.

St Mary’s Hospital is indeed a unique place. It is the only private State-aided Catholic Mission Hospital in South Africa. It provides District Hospital Service to approximately 750 000 people living in the inner and outer operational entities of the Ethekwini Municipal area of 6 894 sqkm. Nineteen clinics refer their patients to St Mary’s which tries to work in close partnership with the KwaZulu Department of Health through involvement in the District Health Care Plan of the Province and the Country’s Health Care System.

Only in Jesus, who is the Healer of all, can we stand up together to the challenges faced by our patients and thus the staff.

To read more, go to: or call: +27 31 717 1000