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37 hospitals in South Africa excluded from power cuts to save lives

Christian Fernsby |
37 hospitals across the country will be exempted from the load shedding schedule, Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, announced.

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This follows several engagements with various stakeholders, including Eskom and municipalities, as the Department of Health works on a plan to introduce an energy mix to shield public health facilities from the devastating power outages.

“The impact of load shedding on the provision of healthcare services cannot be underestimated or overemphasised,” said Phaahla, during a media briefing on the impact of load shedding on health services.

While most public health facilities have backup power supply systems, including generators and uninterrupted power supply (UPS), he said they were not designed to reserve electricity for an extended period.

According to the Minister, most provinces have reported that their budgets for diesel are running out quicker, and generators are old and cannot power the entire facility.

“Generators have been proven not to adequately meet the increasing demands during load shedding in health facilities, hence some hospitals are left without a choice, but forced to switch off some critical areas, which now compromise patient care.”

In some provinces, like Limpopo, hospitals have resorted to putting elective surgeries on hold until further notice.

The outages are reducing the lifespan of some of the critical medical machinery and equipment and the efficacy of some medications and vaccines, which need to be stored at specific temperatures.

“Equipment is at risk in our ICUs and those are some of the very sensitive equipment, which has to be protected. Because if there can be any power interruption with a ventilator, you're almost certain that the patient is going to die.”

According to Phaahla, there are two sets of areas of differentiation in power supply, the urban which is mainly connected by municipalities and the rural that mainly receives its electricity from Eskom.

“In cases of Eskom direct connection, they will directly exempt the facilities and in case of municipality connection, they will install a dedicated feeder line that kicks in to keep power in the facility once the municipality load shedding schedule takes place,” he explained.

The criteria for hospital exclusion include patients’ volume, the nature of specialised services they provide and technological and medical equipment they have, of which most are academic, regional and district hospitals.

However, he said exclusions do not mean the facilities should waste electricity.

In addition, he said the department was considering a phased approach to investment in renewable energy through solar power installation at health facilities as part of the energy mix.

Meanwhile, solar energy will be prioritised for areas such as theatres, intensive care units (ICU), and high-tech and advanced equipment.

The installation of UPS technology is on the cards to improve the reliability and efficiency of an electrical system across an entire hospital facility and sustain critical services and data protection for patients and staff.

The exempted health facilities include:

In Gauteng: Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Hellen Joseph Hospital, Steve Biko Academic Hospital, George Mukhari Hospital, Pretoria West Hospital, Tshwane District Hospital, Mamelodi Hospital, Bronkhorstpruit Hospital, and Katlehong Hospital.

In 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 Gandhi Hospital, Osindindisweni Hospital, St Aidans Hospital, Addington Hospital, Clairwood Hospital.

In Limpopo: Mankweng Hospital, Lebowakgomo Hospital, Dilokong Hospital, Maklenburg Hospital.

In the Eastern Cape: Frere Hospital, Elliot Hospital, Livingstone Hospital, Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital, Uitenhage Hospital.

In the Free State: Pelenomi Academic Hospital.

In the Western Cape: Tygerberg Hospital, Groote Schuur Hospital, Red Cross Hospital.

Three names have been submitted in the Northern Cape and the department is waiting for a response from Eskom.

In Mpumalanga, the department is waiting for a response on Witbank and Rob Ferreira hospitals which are on the priority list.

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