Sixteen Gauteng public hospitals have experienced water cuts this year, forcing the cancellation of 392 operations.
This is revealed by Gauteng Health and Wellness MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
The Helen Joseph Hospital had 7 water supply interruptions from March to September this year, with 36 operations cancelled.
Edenvale Hospital had to cancel 117 operations because of 7 periods with low pressure or no water at all, sometimes lasting as long as a week. Negative effects on patients included being unable to clean, cook, and operate essential equipment like boilers, laundry and autoclave sterilisers.
Six water failures at the Pholosong Hospital on the East Rand led to 127 cancelled operations and 36 deferred operations.
Kalafong hospital had major water shortages this year on 28 January and on 9 September, but used contingency measures to avoid cancelling any surgery.
Water problems are not only because of Rand Water or municipality cuts – no fewer than 11 hospitals lost water because of internal pipe breakages. These include the Chris Hani Baragwanath, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg, George Mukhari, Steve Biko, Tembisa, Kalafong, Edenvale, Leratong, Yusuf Dadoo, Kopanong and Jubilee hospitals.
The department says hospitals should have a minimum of 48 hours water storage, which many hospitals claim to have but it does not seem to have prevented water disruptions. One problem is that some hospitals do not have pumps to get water to higher floors – low water pressure is a particular problem at the Tembisa and Edenvale hospitals.
According to the department, steps are being taken to ensure all hospitals have tankers and boreholes, rainwater harvesting, grey water reuse, and water purification plans per facility.
Better maintenance should also be a priority as leaking pipes aggravate the problem.
The DA supports all efforts to make our hospitals water resilient as our water woes seem set to continue for a long time.