Power cuts are putting lives in peril

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Photo: @Mabine_Seabe/ Mabine Seabe II.

 

Johannesburg - Only six of the 81 municipal clinics run by the City of Joburg have a generator and this threatens lives of patients.

Cable theft and power outages, such as those caused by Eskom during the recent load shedding, mean that vital medicine and vaccines stored in fridges are compromised. It also means that operations cannot be carried out.

The Saturday Star confirmed on Friday that a generator donated by the DA to the Protea South Clinic – which has been without electricity since July last year – is still not installed because “protocols” were not followed.

Two weeks ago the DA sent the generator to the clinic, which had its power sabotaged by residents who illegally connected to the clinic’s supply.

DA PR councillor Maureen Mnisi for Ward 10 said that it seemed this impasse between the DA and the city would continue even though it was Human Rights Day. The city said the DA had not procured the generator in line with the city’s supply chain management procedures.

A medium-sized generator costs R50 000 while a bigger one is R80 000, and these were funded under the council’s budget for minor upgrades.

The councillor said she was disappointed, saying sick people should not have their health jeopardised by red tape.

Mnisi challenged the ANC to bring its own generator. She said one person had died after being referred to the clinic and turned away.

City of Joburg spokesman Dudu Lushaba said the six clinics with generators were recently built, adding there was a process to buy generators for two clinics per region per year in line with National Health’s norms and standards.

“Clinics do not necessarily close when there is a power failure. Primary health care services that can be rendered using natural light do continue.

“The specialised fridges for storage of vaccines maintain the temperature for up to two days. The current vaccines are less susceptible to temperature changes. In extreme cases of power outages vaccines are stored in cooler boxes in line with cold chain protocol and can thus be transported and utilised,” she said.

Activist and civil rights groups such as Section 27 and the Treatment Action Campaign have in the past highlighted the lack of proper working back-up power equipment, saying it threatened patients’ lives.

The Joburg region has a history of poorly maintained generators. This month staff at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital struggled to keep babies alive after electricity failed and emergency generators cut out intermittently. Babies had to be ventilated manually.

Six premature babies were transported to other hospitals.

Also this month, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital had a power failure and at least one of its 12 emergency generators did not kick in.

Two workers were suspended last month for not maintaining and refuelling the generators. In some instances, surgeons have had to complete operations using torches.

MEC for health Hope Papo had given the assurance that the generators were checked twice a day. But this has been of little comfort as power outages continue to plague health care institutions.

The Department of Infrastructure Development said it had initiated Project 274 three years ago aimed at replacing aging and obsolete equipment including generators.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday city mayor Parks Tau will officially open a R16-million clinic in Slovoville, Soweto.

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