Answers needed from Health MEC over rolling blackouts contingency plans – DA KZN

Rishigen Viranna extremely concerned by effects on patients at provincial hospitals

Rolling blackouts: DA calls for answers from MEC over contingency plans at KZN hospitals and clinics

12 December 2019

The Democratic Alliance has submitted a written parliamentary question (view here) to KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu regarding her Department’s monitoring of generators, sourcing of fuel and the impact on patient care as Eskom load shedding continues for the second week.

The DA remains extremely concerned by the negative effects of electricity outages on patients at KZN’s provincial hospitals as well as the overall provision of health services.

The vast majority of vital medical equipment - from life-saving ventilators to infant incubators to theatre lights and anaesthetic machines - are reliant on electricity to function and save lives. While most of these machines do come with built-in battery storage, it does not last for prolonged periods.

While health facilities, such as hospitals and community health centres, have diesel generators – and some of the older facilities may still have coal generators – again, these generators only provide electricity for short periods. These measures are sufficient for electricity outages such as those experienced during Stages 1, 2 and 3 load shedding.

With KZN currently burdened by Stage 4 to 6 load shedding, resulting in up to nine hours of outages daily, the DA is highly concerned that the current generator systems within hospitals and Community Health Centres will not be able to cope. Of particular concern is whether facilities can source sufficient diesel or coal to run their generators during load shedding.

KZN has already seen elective surgeries being postponed. With prolonged electricity outages, there has to be a plan for emergency surgeries and procedures to go ahead. Currently, it is left up to individual health facilities to manage their waiting lists, check generator's functionality and monitor fuel levels. However, due to understaffing issues, there are facilities that will require support from district and provincial offices in the near future and we call on the MEC to note this.

The DA remains committed to ensuring that patients are not negatively affected during this trying time and to ensuring that the ANC-led failures within Eskom do not impact on patient care and health outcomes.

Issued by Rishigen Viranna,DA KZN Spokesperson on Health, 12 December 2019