The DA’s Jack Bloom during a Hospital Queue Campaign in Gauteng.
Johannesburg - The Emfuleni municipality has admitted that low-pressure water supply problems are crippling the surgical unit at Sebokeng hospital and this could have dire consequences for patients.

The municipality has promised that a task team has been established to deal with any issues “which pose danger to the lives of the people during this time."

Earlier this week, DA Gauteng shadow health MEC Jack Bloom revealed how he had received numerous complaints about the hospital's inability to conduct surgery that lasts longer than three hours because low-pressure water supplied to the hospital has prevented air-conditioning of surgical theatres.

“This problem hit the hospital after December 11 last year when Rand Water and Emfuleni reached an agreement concerning outstanding water payments, whereby the amount of bulk water was reduced. Residents were warned that this could result in low pressure and intermittent water supply,” Bloom said.

The cooling units in theatres were only receiving half the necessary pressure, meaning that patients could be at risk of heat-related sepsis.

Most patients requiring complicated surgery were transported to Kopanong Hospital, but the facility is only equipped to deal with about five surgeries a day, while Sebokeng Hospital usually conducts upwards of 20 to 30 procedures per day.

The situation has only worsened, according to Bloom. “Surgery backlogs are building up at Sebokeng Hospital, which is trying to get a pump that will hopefully solve the water pressure problem. It’s distressing that the failure of the Emfuleni council to pay its water bills has led to so much stress and inconvenience for patients and staff at this hospital.”

Bloom pointed out that the hospital was not to blame, explaining how the surgeons at Sebokeng have been willing to work long hours to conduct surgeries at night under cooler conditions.

“This shows great dedication from the surgeons," he pointed out. "The municipality is at fault here. It’s beyond an inconvenience; it's truly problematic.”

Stanley Gaba, spokesperson for the municipality, assured residents it would do all it could to resolve the hospital’s issues.

He explained that the municipality’s R180 million unpaid water bill had resulted in an agreement with Rand Water to manage daily water consumption in the region. This had led to reduced water pressure across the infrastructural system.

“Reducing the bulk supply per month, means pressure will be reduced significantly in many areas, especially those that are furthest from the source point,” he said.

Gaba indicated that provision had, however, been made to deliver water to the affected areas with tankers during the day.

“Hospitals and schools have been supplied with Jojo tanks to avoid any shortage of water, Gaba said.

“We acknowledge the serious implications this may have on patients, and operations at hospitals.”

Gaba explained that a technical task team, which includes members from the local health sector, would deal with issues that put lives at risk. 

Saturday Star