New Somerset Hospital

District General Hospital | Cape Town, South Africa

Hospital description

“Please be advised that the International Visiting Elective Student Programme at our teaching and satellite hospitals (Groote Schuur Hospital, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, New Somerset Hospital and Victoria Hospital) has been temporarily suspended while we conduct a review of the programme and its impact on the clinical training platform. Only students registered at South African medical schools may continue to apply for an elective placement.” Please email Jade if you are interested in the programme and she will let you know if it is now running

The Somerset Hospital in the Green Point area of Cape Town, South Africa and was opened in 1864, making it the oldest hospital in South Africa and the first teaching hospital; it has subsequently been declared a national monument.

The current hospital replaced one of the same name in Chiapinni Street, which had been founded by Dr Samuel Bailey in 1818 as the first civilian hospital in Cape Town. It was named after Lord Charles Somerset the governor of the Cape Colony who gave land for the construction. In addition to the appointment of medical staff, nurses were recruited from the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at St Thomas’ Hospital in London; among these was a 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, becoming the first hospital to train non-white nurses.

From 1918 until 1937, Somerset Hospital was the main academic hospital of the University of Cape Town. During development works new buildings upheld apartheid, as some new buildings only catered for white patients. The buildings were actually renamed the North and West wings to signify this division. North Wing was named not for its’ geographical position in the hospital complex but because but the ‘N’ meant for non-white patients. Similarly, the ‘W’ of West Wing signified that it was for Whites.

The high incidence of HIV infections amongst the patients at Somerset Hospital 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 at the hospital in 2005.

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. In 2010 it opened a new measles ward following a rise in measles cases in Cape Town. Additionally, in 2013 a few meters further the New Somerset Hospital opened its doors with further capacities for the region.

The hospital has 542 staff members including doctors, nurses and other staff members such as administrative and other specialists.


Hospital type District General Hospital
Local language Some English
Funding Status Public


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