The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has voiced concerns over the impact of rolling blackouts on hospitals – saying it could pose risks for people undergoing emergency operations or affect babies in ICU.
Eskom recently implemented stage six rolling blackouts due to the power utility’s severe shortage in generation capacity. Rolling blackouts have been reduced to stage four on Saturday morning and will shift to stage three from five am on Sunday morning.
SAMA’s Chairperson, Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa, says there is the possibility of hospital generators failing.
“We are very concerned about hospitals experiencing loadshedding. It has huge implications in terms of emergency operations. The problem is the generators in the hospitals are not functional and at times they do not kick in or they take time. There is no backup. This also affects the children that are hospitalised, like the premature babies who need incubation, they need electricity. If we don’t have that, those babies may die. We are not sure currently of the impact of that, as we speak.
Exemption of health facilities
There are calls for health facilities to be exempt from the current rolling blackouts that are causing huge frustration and economic damage in South Africa. Rolling blackouts are also compromising the safety and health of retirement homes where frail residents need a constant supply of oxygen.
The president of a Society of Anaesthesiologists Dr Caroline Corbett, says they are calling on government to consider sparing the country’s essential health services.
“It’s a real disaster in certain areas we’ve had to suspend operating procedures all together because we have a critical health system as it is. Now this coupled with rolling blackouts and extensive periods of loadshedding we really are seeing the underbelly of what’s left of our health system being attacked by poor management and poor planning. We would like to see a more aggressive approach to sparing hospitals and our critical resources from these outages.”
Corbett has outlined some crucial hospital heating and cooling systems which are negatively affected by rolling blackouts.
“The problem with hospitals is that we need cold storage, we need refrigeration for drugs, for vaccines, we need to make sure our mortuary fridges are kept at a constant temperatures. Our cooling and heating systems are not necessarily prioritised.”
Impact of rolling blackouts to health facilities in South Africa:
Meanwhile, the Southern African Chamber of Undertakers says Eskom’s constant power cuts have an adverse effect on their industry and amounts to economic sabotage.
The organisation has threatened to raise the prices if government doesn’t intervene.
Chamber of Undertakers decries costs associated with rolling blackouts: