Earlier this week, the Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, said he was engaging Eskom and other stakeholders about the process that needs to be followed to exempt healthcare facilities from load shedding.
On Friday, 30 September, he revealed that more than 30 hospitals across the country have been exempted from power cuts – as of this week – and more facilities are waiting for Eskom’s word on the matter.
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IMPACT OF POWER CUTS
The health ministry said the impact of load shedding on healthcare services cannot be underestimated or overemphasised.
“Load shedding is a risk to the efforts to deliver on our constitutional mandate of protecting, promoting and maintaining the health, safety and well-being of patients and the public by ensuring quality pharmaceutical service for all South Africans,” said Phaahla, adding that his department would do whatever it takes to save lives.
Most public health facilities are equipped with backup power supply systems, including generators and Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS). However, these backup systems were never intended to provide power for extended periods of time as has been the case recently during the higher stages of load shedding.
“We are also considering the phased approach investment in renewable energy through solar power installation at health facilities as part of energy mix. This will need feasibility study before we commence with the critical health facilities per province based on budget availability,” said the Minister. The solarised energy will be prioritised for use in theatres, intensive care units and for advanced equipment.
Phaahla said with systems unable to meet the increasing electricity demands, some hospitals have been left with no choice but to switch off critical areas, which compromises patient care. He said facilities in Limpopo have put a halt on elective surgeries until further notice.
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The power cuts are having an impact on the lifespan of some medical machinery and equipment, including generators. The unpredictable outages also pose a threat to the safety of medicine and vaccines that need to be stored at a specific temperature.
“The security in the health facilities is also compromised during the blackout times, especially in the evening.
“Though there are no reported cases or incidents of criminal activities, healthcare workers feel vulnerable and don’t feel safe to move between their residences and other sections of the health facilities during the blackouts,” said the minister.
HEALTH FACILITIES EXEMPTED FROM LOAD SHEDDING
Phaahla announced that some hospitals across the country would be excluded from load shedding after engagements with Eskom and municipalities.
The following health facilities are exempted as of this week while there are also facilities that could be exempted in the near future as the Health Department, Eskom and Municipalities continue their talks.
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Hospitals exempted from load shedding:
Gauteng: Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Helen Joseph Hospital, Steve Biko Academic Hospital, George Mukhari Hospital, Pretoria West Hospital, Tshwane District Hospital, Mamelodi Hospital, Bronkhrospruit Hospital, Kalafong Hospital.
Free State: Pelenomi.
KwaZulu-Natal: Harry Gwala Hospital (former Edendale), Greys Hospital, Ladysmith Hospital, Prince Mshiyeni Hospital, RK Khan Hospital, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, McCords Hospital, King Dinizulu Hospital, Mandela Children`s Hospital, Mahatma Ghandi Hospital, Osindindisweni Hospital, St Aidans Hospital, Addington Hospital, Clairwood Hospital.
Limpopo: Mankweng Hospital, Lebowakgomo Hospital, Dilokong Hospital, Maklenburg Hospital.
Eastern Cape: Frere Hospital, Elliot Hospital, Livingstone Hospital, PE Hospital, Uitenhage Hospital.
Western Cape: Tygerberg Hospital, Groote Schuur Hospital, Red Cross Hospital.
Hospitals awaiting a response from Eskom:
Northern Cape: Three names have been submitted and are waiting for a response from the power utility.
Mpumalanga: Witbank and Rob Ferreira hospitals are on the priority list and awaiting a response.
Phaahla said provincial departments of health have been urged to put together lists of facilities for submission for next week’s meeting with Eskom, instead of having individual facilities do requests.
The criteria for hospital exclusion include the number of patients at a facility, the nature of specialised services they provide and technological and medical equipment they have.
“These are mostly academic, regional and district hospitals. The exclusions or exemptions do not mean the facilities should use electricity without limitations, we have made it clear to Eskom that we have joined their call to ensure that even our health facilities use electricity sparingly, productively and purposefully at all times,” said the minister.
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