michael goldblatt’s alex clinic photo gallery
Alex Clinic - the Health Centre and its environs 84 - 96
In 1905, soon after the end of the Anglo-Boer-War, Alexandra Township was proclaimed some miles from Johannesburg. Although it was originally intended to provide land for white people the depression that followed the end of the war meant that there was no demand so a few years later it was converted into a so-called 'Native' township where black people had full freehold rights of ownership.
The Health Centre
In 1929 a Mother and Child Clinic was established in Alexandra by the American Board Mission who could not, however, maintain it financially. The result was that in 1939 the University of the Witwatersrand began manning it. It was compulsory that all final year medical students did part of their training there. This means that every doctor who qualified at Wits University after 1939 spent time working at Alex Clinic. As part of the reorganisation the name was changed to the Alexandra Health Centre and University Clinic.
The adjacent town of Sandton became involved in 1986 when the Mayor of Sandton, Willem Hefer, and the President of the Sandton Civic Foundation, Eric Gallo, started a fund-raising campaign. Wits University also started playing a more active role in running the clinic and a new management team was appointed, consisting of Dr Tim Wilson as director, Dr Liz Floyd, full-time Senior Medical Officer, and Dr Wendy Orr, full-time Medical Officer. They were soon joined by David Robb as Hospital Administrator. The staff compliment grew and changed as Alex Clinic became more vibrant and integrated into the Alexandra community but many interesting doctors worked there during these critical years including Dr Paulo Ferrinho (now Professor of Public Health at …. In Lisbon; Dr Grant Rex who is now…. ; Dr Peter Barron who …. ; Huib Cornelje who was sent by…. .
Someone was once asked why all the doctors at Alex were white while all the nurses were black. The simple answer is that during this toxic, apartheid, period in the history of South Africa there was very little room for black professionals of any kind.
The photographs reflect something of the turbulent years that followed.