Generator capacity of just five hours at NC hospitals must be increased

By Harold McGluwa MPL DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Health:

The DA has today written to Health MEC Mac Jack, to urgently request that the health department increases the litres of diesel in storage at Northern Cape hospitals for fuelling of generator power. Currently a maximum of five hours of generator capacity is available at Northern Cape hospitals. But with load-shedding now confirmed for two years to come, and higher stages of load-shedding bringing over six hour electricity cuts per day, our hospitals will not keep the lights on.

The Northern Cape Health Department has not necessarily made adequate provision for back-up electricity generation during load-shedding.

In a reply by the MEC to a parliamentary question, the health department indicates that hospitals in the Northern Cape that have ICU and surgical wards can each run on generator power for a maximum of five hours on current fuel levels. This is in stark contrast to the reply by the National Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, who previously indicated that each generator in the province allows for 24 hours of operation at full load. The Northern Cape is underequipped to run on generator capacity and does not meet the national standard set by the National Minister.

A life-threatening situation recently occurred at Kimberley Hospital where a generator failed to kick-in during load-shedding. A woman was on the operating table, undergoing a ceasarian section at the time and doctors and nurses scurried around with their cellphones, trying to create enough light in the theatre so that she could be stitched up. In other provinces, patients on life-support died when generators failed to kick-in. This is why it is so very important that hospitals are always ready to deal with the unexpected.

In the Western Cape, the calculated average run-time of generators at current tank capacities is 37 hours. The DA-run government achieves this by ensuring that generators are tested fortnightly, as well as during and after power outages, and that when fuel levels drop to below 50%, tanks are replenished. Why can the same not be done in the Northern Cape? If the DA government in the Western Cape can achieve this, so should other provinces.

The DA in the Northern Cape implores the Northern Cape Health Department to follow suit. We also recommend that respective health facilities each dedicate an adequate portion of their budget towards the purchasing of diesel, and we hope that the MEC will champion this process.

The people of the Northern Cape deserve continuous, quality health care services and should not have their lives placed at risk due to the failure of government to plan properly.