Photo by: Bloomberg
As the country experiences one of the worst weeks of blackouts this year, calls are growing for hospitals and clinics to be turned into load-shedding-free zones.
Since last week, Eskom has implemented the Stage 6 load-shedding, citing breakdowns at power plants.
The situation prompted the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) to request load-shedding exemptions for public clinics and hospitals.
In a statement, HPCSA president Professor Simon Nemutandani said because of load-shedding, "hospitals in the country are buckling under pressure".
According to Nemutandani, more than 80% of South Africans depend on the public health system. The country has about 420 state-run hospitals and more than 3 000 state-run clinics.
While private facilities and secondary and tertiary public hospitals have generator banks, not all smaller hospitals and clinics have them.
"This has created more strain [for] the already far-stretched healthcare system. Load-shedding has negatively impacted the provision of quality care in all our health facilities and placed an enormous strain on the health practitioners on their daily routine of work.
"Power supply interruptions place critically ill patients who are dependent on life-support machines at risk. The performance and life span of medical equipment and devices are negatively affected by power interruptions," he said.
Nemutandani also said hospitals could not perform emergency surgeries, putting patients at risk and added that the training of future health professionals was also at risk.
"These health facilities are also platforms used for undergraduates' internships and postgraduate training of health professionals who are also negatively affected by load-shedding."
His call from the exemptions was echoed in a petition Professor Adam Mohamed, the head of internal medicine at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital penned.
In the petition, Mohamed said the Western Cape had exempted healthcare facilities from load-shedding and he urged Gauteng to do the same.
"The government couldn't prevent Covid deaths but surely it can prevent unnecessary load-shedding deaths. [The] Gauteng provincial government exempts hospitals from being load-shed! Stand up and be counted and urge your ward councillors and politicians to assist patients in getting the best care possible," he said.
The petition, which has garnered more than 32 000 signatures so far, also raised the alarm on the cost of load-shedding for facilities.
"During load-shedding, a hospital like Charlotte Maxeke burns between 800 and 900 litres of diesel a day. This translates into an expenditure of between R5-million and R8-million a month - which all comes out of the provincial health budget. This means that there is R5-million to R8-million less to spend on patient care."
Health department spokesperson Foster Mohale said: "We are discussing this with the provincial heads of health departments across the country. Our recommendations will be tabled before a meeting of the minister (Joe Phaahla), deputy minister (Sibongiseni Dhlomo) and health MECs."