Chris Hani Baragwanath Acedemic Hospital. This photo was taken during a caesarean section in the early hours of Friday morning. The hospital had a power outage and medics had to use a battery torch and light from their cellphones to complete the procedure. 100912 Picture: Handout/Supplied

Johannesburg -

Medical staff at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital had to use the light from their cellphones to complete a caesarean section, and manually give oxygen to another patient who was on life support, during a power outage on Friday.

Dr Langanani Mbodi, the chairman of the SA Registrars Association, said that, based on the information he received from the registrars (doctors training towards being specialists) on duty at the time, the power went out as the doctors were about to take the baby out of the mother’s womb.

“The mother was opened and doctors had to take the baby out. They couldn’t stop because the mother would have bled to death and the baby would have died,” he said.

Mbodi said doctors had to use a battery-powered torch “and other sources of light, including cellphones” to complete the procedure.

The mother and child survived.

Mbodi said another patient in the high-care unit of the maternity section, who was on a ventilator, was kept alive by a staffer who had to manually pump the oxygen sack for about 30 minutes after the back-up battery gave in.

That patient also survived.

“We applaud the registrars who were on duty who ensured the patients stayed alive,” said Mbodi.

The DA’s provincial spokesman on health, Jack Bloom, said Friday’s outage was the seventh to have hit the hospital this year.

He said the hospital and the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development needed to explain why the hospital’s generators failed to kick in during power outages.

Bloom said the generators needed to be maintained every week, and if this was done, power outages wouldn’t disrupt the hospital’s services, as they currently did.

Bloom said that during one of the power outages earlier this year, it was discovered that the generators had no fuel and therefore couldn’t run when they needed.

Gauteng Department of Health spokesman Simon Zwane confirmed that the power had tripped from 2am to 4am on Friday, but he denied that doctors had to use light from their cellphones to complete a procedure.

He said that in any event, a cellphone’s light would be insufficient to use over an operating table.

He maintained that no patients’ lives were at risk during the power outage.

Zwane further said only emergency procedures were done during the early hours of the day.

This, however, was disputed by Mbodi, who said that because the hospital was so busy, all sorts of different procedures were done at any time of day.

“It’s too busy. If we do 10 caesareans during the day, we’ll do 10 at night, probably even more,” he said.

Zwane said: “It has to be understood that power outages happen when there’s a power cut in the whole area… and that is outside the control of the hospital.”

He said the hospital was involved in raising awareness that cable theft, often blamed for the power cuts, placed patients’ lives at risk.

SA Medical Association spokeswoman Dr Phiphi Ramathuba, who also chairs the association’s committee for public sector doctors, said the department needed to stop denying that such problems existed.

When asked about the maintenance of the generators at Baragwanath, the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development’s director of communications, Ramona Baijnath, said: “MEC [Qedani] Mahlangu will deal with this and other matters at a press conference early next week.” - The Star