The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) has appealed to the department of health to ensure that generator-backed-up and appropriately-sized uninterrupted power supply electrical systems are installed in all healthcare facilities across the country. File logo
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) has appealed to the department of health to ensure that generator-backed-up and appropriately-sized uninterrupted power supply electrical systems are installed in all healthcare facilities across the country. File logo

Denosa urges hospitals and clinics to service back-up generators amidst rolling blackouts

By Jonisayi Maromo Time of article published Oct 28, 2021

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Pretoria – Following the announcement of stage 4 load shedding, which is set to continue until 5am on Friday, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) has appealed to management at all healthcare facilities to ensure that back-up generators are well-serviced and fully operational.

The non-maintenance of the generators is “a great inconvenience” to nurses in hospitals and clinics during load shedding periods, acting Denosa general secretary Cassim Lekhoathi said.

Denosa has urged the department of health to ensure that fully generator-backed-up and appropriately-sized, uninterrupted power supply (UPS) electrical systems are installed in all healthcare facilities, particularly for more essential departments such as intensive care units and theatres to avoid the deadly consequences of power failure and failure by back-up generators to kick-in.

“The UPS stores reserve power in a battery to allow a facility to function normally on an emergency basis for an acceptable period depending on the number of batteries. Those facilities which neglect the maintenance of their standby generators are reminded that six babies died at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in Mdantsane due to power outage and failure of the back-up generator to kick in, in 2004 and 2006 respectively,” said Lekhoathi.

“The continued failure to maintain generators is extremely concerning a tendency because nurses are often to blame when patients receive poor quality service as a result of load shedding. Furthermore, Denosa has to represent nurses in cases of negligence where the cause was both load shedding and failure of back-up generators to kick in, in times of load shedding, forcing nurses to use their cellphones in most cases in order for them to do their work.”

Denosa has been receiving complaints from its members, especially those working in community healthcare centres and healthcare centres in rural settings regarding the maintenance of back-up generators, Lekhoathi said.

“It would appear that negligence to maintain back-up generators is the main cause of this frustration, as well as non-presence of fuel. In some facilities, deliveries of babies have to be done in darkness in times of load-shedding as back-up generators do not cover all delivery rooms in the entire maternity unit,” he added.

He said while nurses must be applauded for innovating and improvising under the circumstances, Denosa was concerned that in a few years to come, many of those nurses may be charged by the regulatory body “if things didn’t go accordingly”.

Load shedding also impacts negatively on the administration of medication to patients in other wards that may not be covered by back-up generators, Denosa said.

“In the same spirit, Denosa would like to applaud facilities that constantly test and check their standby generators. Some facilities do so religiously every week, and they have not had any major disruptions to their services,” said Lekhoathi.

“Critically, Denosa calls on all municipalities to move hospitals and clinics to the ‘Essential Consumer’ category of their grid in their power distribution design so that healthcare facilities, which provide essential services, are exempt from load shedding. This is to ensure that critical areas in a facility, like ICU and theatre, are placed under ‘critical loads’ electricity network to ensure they remain fully functional with power.”

Denosa said this was a critical area that some municipalities were overlooking “and thus failing the nation”.

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