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File picture: Pexels

Concern mounts over loadshedding impact on hospitals and health

By SAMKELO MTSHALI Time of article published Dec 12, 2019

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Durban - With loadshedding a constant threat, the Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal has raised concerns over the Health Department’s monitoring of generators, sourcing of fuel and the impact on patient care as Eskom load shedding continues for a second week. 

The DA says that the majority of vital medical equipment are reliant on electricity to function and save lives with concerns that generators were only able to provide electricity for short periods.

The party's spokesperson on health, Dr Rishigen Viranna, said that they had submitted a written parliamentary question to the provincial Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu regarding her Department’s monitoring of generators, sourcing of fuel and the impact on patient care as Eskom loadshedding continues for the second week.

"The DA remains extremely concerned by the negative effects of electricity outages on patients at KZN’s provincial hospitals as well as the overall provision of health services.

"The vast majority of vital medical equipment - from life-saving ventilators to infant incubators to theatre lights and anaesthetic machines - are reliant on electricity to function and save lives," he said. 

He added that while most of those machines came with built-in battery storage, they did not last for prolonged periods.

"While health facilities, such as hospitals and community health centres, have diesel generators, and some of the older facilities may still have coal generators, these generators only provide electricity for short periods," Viranna said. 

He added that these measures were sufficient for electricity outages such as those experienced during stages one, two and three load shedding.

"With KZN currently burdened by Stage 4 to 6 load shedding, resulting in up to nine hours of outages daily, the DA is highly concerned that the current generator systems within hospitals and Community Health Centres will not be able to cope. 

"Of particular concern is whether facilities can source sufficient diesel or coal to run their generators during load shedding," said Viranna.

He said that the province had already seen elective surgeries being postponed and that with prolonged electricity outages, there had to be a plan for emergency surgeries and procedures to go ahead. 

"Currently, it is left up to individual health facilities to manage their waiting lists, check generator's functionality and monitor fuel levels." "However, due to understaffing issues, there are facilities that will require support from district and provincial offices in the near future and we call on the MEC to note this," Viranna said.

Political Bureau

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