Durban - A Gauteng-based professor has sounded the alarm on the impact of blackouts on healthcare.
Head of Internal Medicine at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Professor Adam Mohamed, has started a petition calling on government to exempt all hospitals in the province from load shedding.
Mohamed pointed out that hospitals in the Western Cape do not load shed.
He said rolling blackouts put a strain on hospital equipment and patients' lives.
"As it is, after Covid, the number of admissions and severity of disease have increased exponentially putting a further strain on an already stretched healthcare system," he said.
Mohamed said UPS batteries in Neonatal Care Wards and other ICUs do not have enough time to recharge between power cuts during load shedding, which is fatal for infants and the most vulnerable of patients.
"Even where hospitals do have generators they cannot power the entire hospital so outpatients for example, who sit in an area that is not considered an emergency area, will sit in total darkness requiring healthcare professionals to use their cellphone torches in order to examine them," he said.
Mohamed said during load shedding a hospital like Charlotte Maxeke burns through between 800 and 900 litres of diesel a day.
This, he added, translated into an expenditure of between R5 million and R8 million a month - which all comes out of the provincial health budget. This means that there is R5 million to R8 million less to spend on patient care.
Mohamed said the supply of water is also affected during load shedding, which had a direct impact on hygiene and an increase in the spread of infections.
"The staff morale at a hospital like Charlotte Maxeke after Covid and the hospital fire, is at an all-time low. Add to that load shedding, and the healthcare system can be safely said to be in a state of disintegration," he said.
Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa has conceded that there is no quick fix for load shedding.
In his weekly blog, Ramaphosa said government was making progress in the implementation of the additional actions he had announced in July, even though the effects may not be immediately felt.
"Given the unpredictable performance of Eskom’s fleet of coal-fired power stations, we will not be able to eliminate load shedding in the short term. This is the unfortunate reality of our situation, which has had a long history.
"Our goal in the immediate term however is to reduce the frequency and severity of load shedding by addressing power station breakdowns," he said.