Today Premier Helen Zille presented the Province’s disaster plans for health facilities, in the event of Day Zero.
Speaking to Hospital and other facility CEOs at the Western Cape Government offices, Premier Zille provided a progress update on measures that are currently in place and planned interventions going forward.
An agreement has been reached with the City of Cape Town – for facilities located in the Metro – that water will not be shut off at hospitals and health facilities (both public and private) should we reach Day Zero.
Despite this, the Province has plans to guarantee alternative water for hospitals in the extremely unlikely event that taps have to be turned off at these facilities as well. Every attempt is also being made to ensure that clinics and day facilities can remain open as well in this unlikely scenario.
The Province’s strategy has three focal points:
1. To reduce water consumption at health care facilities;
2. To be prepared for the possibility of water rationing; and
3. To be prepared for the total loss of municipal water supply.
The Provincial Health Department has been working with health facilities across the Province to bring down their water usage through various innovations such as surgical scrubs, the use of alcohol hand sanitisers, and using bottled water for drinking, amongst other processes.
Engineering interventions have also been useful in bringing usage down. This includes: fixing of leaking infrastructure, installation of waterless urinals and the re-use of treated water.
Good maintenance has led to notable decreases in water consumption at some facilities. In the last seven years, Groote Schuur Hospital has reduced its water consumption by 50%.
This hospital is recycling water, resulting in a saving of 5 million litres of water per year. The hospital has also recently installed heat pumps that cool water from the air-conditioning system prior to it entering the main chillers. This not only saves substantial electrical energy, but reduces the water required by the cooling towers. It is planned to use waste water from theatre autoclaves, reverse osmosis plants, and rain water harvesting for toilet flushing.
Augmentation of available water
Should we reach Day Zero, facilities are being equipped to ensure that they remain fully operational and available to the public. This means other water sources are being planned for such a scenario.
Groundwater will be used to augment the supply at large facilities. Some facilities already have boreholes, which are being reinstated. And in other cases, new boreholes are being sunk.
Currently, sufficient ground water has been secured at 31 facilities, with a collective total of 70 boreholes having been drilled as at 21 January 2018. Once drilling is complete, yields are confirmed and water quality is tested. This is followed by the finalisation of engineering designs to treat and reticulate water into a hospital’s system.
Of the 70 boreholes drilled to date, 56 (either existing or new) have already been pump-tested to verify yields, sustainable pump rates and to determine recovery rates.
Health facilities of the highest priority
Eighteen health facilities have been identified as being of the highest priority, given the nature of services they provide and their location.
Three fall under the Central and Tertiary category: Tygerberg, Groote Schuur and Red Cross. A further nine are of top priority in the metro region: Lenteguer, New Somerset, Mowbray, Mitchells Plain, Karl Bremmer and Stikland.
An additional nine facilities are also in the high-priority category in the rural parts of the Province.
Of the 18 high-priority facilities, 16 facilities have been secured – this means sufficient ground water has been found for these premises.
Plans are in place to ensure that the water is tested and reticulated into the hospital systems.
Solutions are being devised at Groote Schuur and Caldeon hospitals where – on both sites – the groundwater yields are not yet sufficient.
Because Groote Schuur Hospital is located in difficult and low-yielding geohydrology, permission is being requested from SANParks to explore for water on their land adjacent to the facility.
This is also the case for Caldeon, where permission has been granted by the municipality to drill on their adjacent property in order to obtain sufficient water yields for the facility.
The Province also has plans for other facilities, which fall under different priority levels. These plans may include sources of water other than groundwater, such as the delivery of water to facilities for drinking, and the storage of water in tanks for hygiene and fire safety purposes.
Premier Zille reiterated that, while it is essential for government to plan for Day Zero, the first priority must be to avoid it entirely. This is possible if all residents use less than 50 litres of water per person per day.