Picture: Sandile Ndlovu/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo on Thursday heaped praise on the management and medical staff of Addington Hospital in Durban after a "severe midnight storm" caused blackouts in critical areas of the facility.

In a statement, the provincial health department said water had seeped into the power supply unit in the basement, shutting down power to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), the neonatal ICU, the hospital theatre and several hospital wards.

At the time, two adults and a 12-year-old boy were in the intensive care unit while three pregnant mothers were waiting to go into theatre for caesarian sections.

The department said the generator did not automatically kick in, as it was programmed to only do so during a full power outage and could not be switched on manually as a result of the dangers that go with water damage to electrical wiring.

"This left the life-support machines upstairs operating on back-up power. But the three expectant mothers needed to go into theatre. The mother with a medical complication was aided to walk down the staircase because the lifts had also stopped working. She delivered a healthy baby, and both mother and child are fine."

"While the electrical contractor had been called in and had begun working flat-out to clear the water-logged basement and find the electrical fault, so that a particular circuit breaker could be shut down and power restored, doctors and nurses had their hands full upstairs. They had to manage the critically ill patients on life support. And they did so with aplomb."

The MEC said the disaster management plan saved the day.

“This was completely unforeseen, yet they were able to implement the disaster management plan and think on their feet to save lives. This is what we’re always saying: people who manage our health facilities must always have Plan B. If things don’t go the way you expected them, you must always have a fall back plan," said Dhlomo.

Power was restored at 01h30. Electricians were on site hours later to ensure it remained that way.

African News Agency/ANA