Mark Maritz and his wife have had to wait 8 days for an elective c-section at the Rahima Moosa Hospital. 150514. Picture: Chris Collingridge 608

Johannesburg - A backlog in elective caesarean operations at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital has expectant mothers fearing for their babies’ lives.

Mothers booked to have their C-sections as far back as two weeks ago have told The Star their surgery has been delayed as the hospital’s boilers have not been functioning optimally due to diesel suppliers not being paid.

This has led to a linen supply problem in the only operational theatre and doctors having to prioritise emergency patients.

“I was admitted on May 7 (last week) for a C-section the following morning,” 24-year-old Rose* said on Thursday. “That morning the doctor said the theatre was not ready. There was no linen due to no diesel and they can’t steam the linen.”

And that has been the story every day since, she said.

Yet the women are prepared each day for surgery. “They starve us from 10pm at night till 2pm because we’re told we’re going to theatre,” Rose said. “We all bath in ice-cold water every night - pregnant women can’t bath in cold water.”

Rose, who is 40 weeks’ pregnant, said she could not go home as she was told she needed to be at the hospital in case she went into labour.

She said there were about 20 women waiting for their elective C-sections.

On Thursday, she was told she was number one on the list, but there were also emergency cases.

“I understand there are emergencies when a child’s life’s in danger, but it’s all the time. And they keep admitting people every day. There are six coming today for elective C-sections,” Rose said incredulously.

Brenda*, 25, who is 10 months and a couple of weeks pregnant, was admitted two weeks ago for her surgery.

“It’ has been two weeks and nothing has happened. My worry is that I lost my first baby, now I think I’ll lose another one because I’m starved for going to theatre and nothing happens and I’m bathing with cold water every day,” Brenda said.

Rose said the doctors were doing the best they could - some even working through the night to deliver as many babies as they could - but the problem was a managerial one.

“It’s like they wait for us to be an emergency, and I don’t want to be an emergency. Why must my child’s life first be in danger for us to be helped?” she asked.

Rose’s husband John* said the situation was frustrating.

“I don’t sleep at night because I’m worried. Eight days is too much. I don’t know if my (unborn) son is okay, or (if he will) be born otherwise. It’s quite pathetic. In 2012, with our first-born, it wasn’t like this,” he said.

In March, staff at the hospital had the strenuous task of ventilating babies manually after a power failure.

The Gauteng Department of Infrastructure said the hospital had two boilers - one coal-fired, the other dual-fired (diesel and gas).

The dual-fired boiler has the capacity to service the entire hospital.

“There was an instance two weeks ago when the dual-fired boiler did not have sufficient gas to ignite the boiler. The hospital has since replenished the gas,” said the department’s spokeswoman Ramona Baijnath.

The Gauteng Department of Health’s spokesman, Simon Zwane, said the backlogs had not compromised any of the patients’ health.

“Initiatives, which include health workers working overtime and using services of agency nursing staff for the theatre, have been made to clear the backlog,” Zwane said.

On the issue of the linen, Zwane said that when the hospital experienced problems with laundry delivery from its supplier, there was a washing machine on the site to ensure linen was constantly available.

* Names have been changed to protect their identities

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The Star