Minister Nomafrench Mbombo Media Briefing on Loadshedding in the Western Cape
On 30 September 2022, the National Minister of Health, Minister Phaahla had a virtual media briefing. At this briefing Minister Phaahla indicated that he is exempting Red Cross War Memorial Hospital, Groote Schuur Hospital and Tygerberg Hospitals from planned electricity cuts.
What is of note is that these hospitals have had exemptions in place for up to Stage 6, as part of an agreement with the City Cape Town, which has been placed for at least 4 years. “The Department of Health and Wellness have made submissions, for the exemption of an additional 10 hospitals on the “Eskom grid” and 9 additional (to the existing 3) under “City grid” says the Head of Department, Dr Cloete.
These are based on workload, and the range of services offered at each hospital. Hospitals on the City of Cape Town grid for which exemptions have been requested for are (in this order) are:
- Mitchells Plain
- Mowbray Maternity
- New Somerset
- Karl Bremer
- False Bay
- Oral Health Centre
Hospitals on the Eskom grid for which exemptions have been requested for are (in this order) are:
- Eerste River
- Beaufort West
Dr Cloete continues “while this process is ongoing, the Department also has an agreement in place with both the City and Eskom for temporary exemptions, in specific instances where hospitals have generator failures (allowing for repairs to full functionality). We have a clear commitment and process with both Eskom and City teams to find solutions to confirm specific timeframes for additional exemptions.”
As far as the prioritization of the hospitals is concerned, Dr Kariem, Deputy Director General: Operations, for the Department said: “the Department looked at the service load, the geographic spread of the hospitals, the burden of disease in the area and used those as criteria to determine what the priority should be.
Minister Mbombo says, “we are in the process of recovering from COVID-19 pandemic and now faced with this “pandemic” of loadshedding. Currently, greater energy demand is placed on generator capability which requires increased fuel consumption and vast expenditure. Since April 2022, the Department of Health and Wellness spent R 53 196 434 on a range of budget items including fuel, oil, and medical gas to keep health care facilities running during power cuts. Most energy consuming equipment like x-ray, nuclear medicine, radiotherapy equipment, and clinical equipment used in theatres, Intensive Care Units (ICU), Emergency Centres (EC) are affected by loadshedding.”
Despite the Department’s preparedness in the event of a national black-out, the dire consequences currently experienced within our health system cannot be overlooked. The current situation under the stage 4 to 6 black-outs and continuity of service offerings, our hospitals have generators and many of our clinics are also equipped with generators or UPS systems. The response time for an alternate power source, like UPS, needs to be faster than 0.5 seconds for all medical equipment in ICUs, theatres, and recovery areas, where there are high-risk patients.
Most UPSs only function for a limited time before they need re-energising, and as a result, hospitals are required to invest in multiple UPS battery back-ups, each of which must deliver power for a minimum of regulated minutes. This power source is, however, only a temporary bridge that ensures enough time for the compulsory alternate source of power from a critical generator to supply the hospital and getting a quality UPS is costly. Electricity is also rerouted from non-essential parts of the hospital, such as admin to trauma units, emergency theatres and areas where critically ill patients are, like those connected to oxygen points and life support.
As Minister Phaahla indicated this morning, the equipment is at risk because of black-outs, ventilators are of key importance especially for ICU and must be protected. The risk of faulty ventilators could place our patients lives in danger and if it is interrupted it could lead to death.
The Constitution require the State to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the rights contained in the Bill of Rights, right to health care is one of them.
Minister Mbombo stated “the exemptions made by Minister Phaahla have left the Western Cape behind. This cannot be acceptable. We are appealing to the National Department to seriously consider our request for the further exemptions at our critical service delivery sites.”