Rolling blackouts are putting vaccines, medication at risk: Health Dept

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The National Department of Health says the continuous power cuts which are being experienced across the country, are putting vaccines and medication at risk of becoming ineffective.

The department held a media briefing on Friday morning on the impact of rolling blackouts and its effects on health services across the country.

This follows a number of engagements by government with various stakeholders including Eskom, on how the rolling blackouts can be better managed with minimal disruptions to the provision of essential healthcare services to save lives.

On Thursday, the power utility announced that Stage 3 rolling blackouts will be implemented throughout the weekend.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaala says, “If there is any interruption and some of our backup systems because of frequency are unable to sustain, then there is a risk to many of our consumables and medical pharmaceuticals, medications and especially vaccines, we know that over and above the COVID-19 vaccines, we carry many other vaccines.”

Phaahla says his department is working on a plan to roll out alternative energy sources at healthcare facilities across the country

He says the rollout is expected to begin in April next year.

“We are also working on a phased approach to invest in renewable energy through the installation of solar power facilities at all our health facilities, to provide an energy mix, but we want to make sure that this doesn’t take too long so that we can get to finality, so that as early as the new financial year, starting in April next year we can be able to roll out this energy mix with solar, ups, lithium batteries and whatever is available in the market.”


Earlier, Johannesburg City Power confirmed that about 10 hospitals and clinics will be exempt from rolling blackouts.

City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena says the Parkhurst Municipal Clinic, Johannesburg Eye Hospital as well as the Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph hospitals will be exempt from rolling blackouts.

On Tuesday, the South African Medical Association (SAMA)  issued an urgent appeal to government to grant healthcare facilities exemptions to Eskom’s rolling blackouts.

SAMA Chairperson Doctor Mvuyisi Mzukwa said in some cases hospital generators are insufficient.

“What is happening is that we have been approached by our members from different provinces to say that they are feeling the pinch. Hospitals are battling under pressure because of load shedding where it is even difficult to attend to emergency operations, emergencies and also babies are being affected. Those that were born prematurely were kept in the incubators, so the problem is dire.”

AUDIO: Below is the full interview with Dr. Mzukwa: