Pretoria – Eskom load shedding is at the centre of some of the major problems plaguing some of the country’s state hospitals, says the DA, with one patient dying as a direct result and increased infections due to faulty air-conditioning.
The party has now called for a full scale investigation into the “catastrophic” conditions at some provincial hospitals.
This follows the DA’s visit to nine hospitals in all provinces, which revealed “shocking” conditions.
DA deputy health spokesman Heinrich Volmink said on Monday that at the Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mpumalanga, the hospital’s generators have not been working since July last year. “When the electricity goes off nursing staff and doctors are expected to keep critical patients, including newborn babies, alive by manually bagging patients to keep them breathing until the electricity comes back on.
“The ventilators’ batteries are also not working, adding to the difficulty of keeping patients alive without electricity.
“Secondary infections within the hospital are increasing and it is suspected that it is a result of rising temperatures because of the broken air-conditioners,” said Volmink.
he Nkosi Albert Luthuli hospital in KwaZulu-Natal theatres can remain operational for two hours before temperatures rise to “unworkable levels”.
DA health spokesman Wilmot James said hospitals are fed electricity from two different sources.
“Groote Schuur is supplied by the City of Cape Town. Tembisa is supplied by Ekurhuleni. Some hospitals are supplied directly by Eskom. But that doesn’t really matter. What is required of the hospital is to have the generation capacity to kick in and to operate efficiently at a volume in terms of megawatts enough to take care of the basic services at a hospital,” said James.
In some cases hospitals are doing very well, like Livingstone Hospital where the back-up generation can “light up that hospital and most of Port Elizabeth for a week”.
This was as a result of Fifa’s request before the 2010 World Cup.
“So it’s a World Cup legacy. The problem at Livingstone is that they don’t have maintenance, as opposed to Pelonomi (in Bloemfontein) where capacity and servicing are weak, the diesel supplied is not reliable and the generators not kicking in at the right time. Imagine being busy operating in the theatre and it stops, which is exactly what happened. So some of the hospitals are not in good shape when it comes to electricity security,” said James.
The health ombud must assess these hospitals against the backdrop of the national core standards Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s office established in 2011, and report to the portfolio committee on health.
“What is happening at Pelonomi is criminal. They should not get away with this. That’s why we call for the ombud to do an audit of dysfunctional hospitals,” said James.
Not all was bad at some state hospitals, he said. “Kimberley hospital is in good shape. It’s doing very well, thanks to its CEO.