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Water woes at 59 health facilities in KZN

Church of Scotland Hospital. | Archives

Church of Scotland Hospital. | Archives

Published Nov 15, 2023


Durban — A parliamentary written reply has revealed that 59 health facilities in KwaZulu-Natal have experienced water shortages.

The EFF’s Sibongile Khawula had asked Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla about the number of health facilities in the province that have experienced water shortages.

Khawula also asked Phaahla what steps he has taken to help the affected facilities with a sustainable solution to the water shortage threats and the crisis affecting health facilities.

In his reply, Phaahla said: “According to the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Department of Health, 59 facilities have experienced water shortages.”

These health facilities include hospitals (10), clinics (46) and community health centres (3).

The majority of the affected health facilities are in Ugu (19), King Cetshwayo (15) and uMkhanyakude (14) districts.

Other districts listed are uThukela (1), Amajuba (1), Ilembe (4), Harry Gwala (2) and uMzinyathi (3).

Phaahla also provided a list of health facilities that have experienced water shortages, including the steps taken to resolve the crisis.

He said that among the reasons for the water shortages were no reliable water supply from the municipality and intermittent water supply from the district municipality water scheme.

A total of 58 of the health facilities had an issue with water supply from the municipality being unreliable while one facility had intermittent water supply from the district municipality water scheme.

According to Phaahla, the steps for a sustainable solution for some of the health facilities are:

  • At St Chads Community Health Centre in Uthukela district, water is currently supplied by the water trucks that were purchased by the KZN Provincial Health. These trucks are managed at a District Level.
  • At Niemeyer Hospital in Amajuba district, a backup steel water tank installation is in progress. Currently, water is supplied by the water trucks purchased by KZN Provincial Health.
  • Under Ilembe district, the installation of borehole projects are at the planning stage at four healthcare facilities that were affected. Water is supplied by the water trucks.
  • In Harry Gwala, a borehole was installed at Umzimkhulu Hospital but went dry after three months, while the borehole installation is in progress at Franklin Clinic. Currently, water is supplied by water trucks.
  • Under the Ugu district, at one facility water is supplied through a borehole, at others borehole installations are in progress or at the planning stage. Water is supplied by water trucks. 19 healthcare facilities were affected.
  • Under the Umkhanyakude district, six healthcare facilities get water through a borehole, while eight are supplied by water trucks.
  • In Umzinyathi district, water is supplied by water trucks in all three affected facilities as the borehole installation project is at the tender stage.
  • At King Cetshwayo district, one facility receives water supply through a borehole, at others, borehole installation has either been awarded or is at the planning stage. Water is supplied by water trucks.

Phaahla said the National Department of Health has provided financial support via the Hospital Facility Revitalisation Grant for the following measures:

  • The purchasing of water trucks.
  • The installation of boreholes at various facilities by the shortage of water supply.
Umzimkhulu Hospital. | KZN Department of Health

DA KZN spokesperson on health, Edwin Baptie said Phaahla’s response vindicates the SA Human Rights Commission’s KZN Water Inquiry report released in September.

“The findings are a damning indictment on the National Department of Water and Sanitation, on KZN Cogta and the water authorities and service providers in KZN.

“They failed to plan, maintain, extend and conduct proper oversight over the most important resource needed to sustain life,” Baptie said.

“Inevitably, the Department of Health has been severely affected by this crisis and has been forced to direct its own funds towards securing water supplies at those 59 facilities referred to in the minister’s report.

“This comes at the expense of clinical services that are already under pressure and failing to meet the demands of another looming ANC-induced crisis called NHI (National Health Insurance).”

He said the questions and answers raised another question: The sustainability of the interventions taken by the Health Department, namely that of boreholes, raised water tanks and water tanker services run by the department.

“These interventions in turn require sustainable bulk supplies of water, sustainable supplies of electricity, and more money.

“It is a chilling example of how destructive the government can be when it gets its policies, priorities and practices wrong,” Baptie said.

Untunjambili Hospital. | KZN Department of Health.

The Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) provincial manager, Mlungisi Ndlovu, said that three months ago they wrote to the SA Human Rights Commission and raised concerns about water shortages in uMkhanyakude District.

This had particularly manifested at Bethesda Hospital where their members had reported that they did not have water which affected theatre operations.

“As the PSA we believe that no facility should operate without water,” Ndlovu said.

He said that the feedback from the Health Department was that it was not their competence … and the Health MEC, Cogta MEC, and mayors from different municipalities should work together in addressing the lack of water in different health facilities.

“That’s why we called for the SA Human Rights Commission to investigate. We are saying an investigation must be completed and action must be taken,” Ndlovu said.

“At institutions where there is no water, our members should be released earlier because you can’t work in an institution where there is no water.”

Affected facilities: St Chads Community Health Centre, Niemeyer Hospital, Maphumulo Clinic, Ntunjambili Hospital, Montebello Hospital, Chibini Clinic, Umzimkhulu Hospital, Franklin Clinic, Mthimude Clinic, Ezingolweni Clinic, Thembalesizwe Clinic, Thonjeni Clinic, Mgayi Clinic, Morrison Post Clinic, Gqayinyanga Clinic, Mgangeni Clinic, Philani Clinic, Nhlalwane Clinic, Elim Clinic, Pisgah Clinic, Gamalakhe CHC, Bhomela Clinic, Braemer Clinic, Ntabeni Clinic, Mvutshini Clinic, Ludimala Clinic, Gcilima Clinic, Ezwenelisha Clinic, Madwaleni Clinic, Mpembeni Clinic, Inhlwathi Clinic, Mseleni Hospital, Ezimpondweni Clinic, Kwambuzi Clinic, Bethesda Hospital, Ophansi Clinic, Othobothini CHC, Nondabuya Clinic, Gwaliweni Clinic, Ophondweni Clinic, Makhathini Clinic, CJM (Charles Johnson Memorial) Hospital, Greytown Hospital, Church of Scotland Hospital, Sokhulu Clinic, Ntambanana Clinic, Cinci Clinic, Halambu Clinic, Ndabaningi Clinic, Vumanhlavu Clinic, Chwezi Clinic, Nkandla Hospital, Ewangu Clinic, Vumanhlavu Clinic, Halambu Clinic, Ndabaningi Clinic, Nongamlana Clinic, Nxamalala Clinic and Chwezi Clinic.

Montebello Hospital. | KZN Department of Health

Department of Water and Sanitation ministry spokesperson Kamogelo Mogotsi told the Daily News to contact the KZN Department of Health for the required information.

“The province did not indicate anything regarding the current situation. We are aware of the water crisis and of what has been happening in the facilities but haven’t received new updates. So, you need to contact all the municipalities affected by water shortages,” Mogotsi said.

The SAHRC’s KZN Water Inquiry report read: “The impact of resulting water shortages is felt acutely by local schools, hospitals, old-age homes, creches and businesses, and emerging health crises are seen, exacerbated by the presence of sewage.”

It revealed that in oThongathi, clinics and hospitals struggled to remain open as the demand for water increased, and various protests spiralled out of control.

The Ugu Ratepayers’ Association said residents experience water outages for several hours, shortages for three days at a time, and recently they had to endure 34 days with no water at all.

This is impacting most significantly on the elderly, those with disabilities, school-going children, particularly young girls whose personal hygiene is affected, and health clinics and local hospitals.

Mid-year, KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane said they had looked at drilling boreholes for health facilities that had a water challenge. She said that KZN had water challenges, however, there were several solutions that they were looking into.

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Daily News