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By Shanice Naidoo

Digital Journalist

Water crisis grips Gauteng hospitals: 392 operations cancelled amid severe water cuts

11 hospitals lost water because of internal pipe breakages.

Sixteen Gauteng public hospitals have experienced water cuts this year, forcing the cancellation of 392 operations.

This was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko in a written reply to DA spokesperson for health Jack Bloom in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to the MEC, Helen Joseph Hospital had seven water supply interruptions from March to September this year, with 36 operations cancelled. 

Edenvale Hospital had to cancel 117 operations because of seven periods with low pressure or no water at all, sometimes lasting as long as a week. 

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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.

Infrastructure breakages

The water problems were not only because of Rand Water or municipality cuts – 11 hospitals lost water because of internal pipe breakages. 

These were the Chris Hani Baragwanath, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg, George Mukhari, Steve Biko, Tembisa, Kalafong, Edenvale, Leratong, Yusuf Dadoo, Kopanong and Jubilee hospitals. 

This meant that hospitals were unable to clean, cook, and operate essential equipment like boilers, laundry and autoclave sterilisers.

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‘Not a sign that things are collapsing’

Speaking to The Citizen, Gauteng health spokesperson Motalatale Modiba said the issue of water supply in facilities is something they have raised before. 

“We are consistently trying to improve capacity where it is possible… We do have those measures that we have put in place to minimise the impact. 

“Maintenance of the infrastructure, we are also addressing. The fact that something breaks is not a sign that things are collapsing. That is why Department of Health has appointed a deputy director general who is solely focused on issues of infrastructure within the health department,” said Modiba.

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Better maintenance should be a priority

Bloom said that while the department said hospitals should have a minimum of 48 hours water storage, it has not 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,” he said.

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 at each facility. 

“Better maintenance should also be a priority as leaking pipes aggravate the problem,” said Bloom.

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