Water shortage: Free State hospitals down to the last drop

Water shortages: Free State hospitals down to the last drop
Two of the Free State's biggest hospitals have had to postpone surgeries due to ongoing water shortages in the province. (Photo: Freepik)

Two of the Free State’s biggest hospitals have postponed some surgeries as Bloemfontein’s water shortage enters its second week. 

The Universitas and Pelonomi Hospitals are making do with water rations following the immediate cut of water supply from their reservoirs by Bloem Water. Public facilities have been severely affected and patients have been turned away. Although the municipality issued a notice for the restoration of water, it never happened.

Free State Health Department spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi, said the hospitals’ reservoirs are under severe pressure. Only high-risk and life-saving surgeries are being performed, with minor procedures put on ice for now.

“Water is a source of all life and its importance is often underplayed. In the context of health, water plays a vital role in ensuring infection prevention because you have to keep all clinical environments sterile,” said Mvambi.

He added: “We have struggled to access water in the past seven days and we’ve had to ration its use. Our reservoirs are under strain.”

Keeping a close eye

“We are keeping an eye on developments. Our technical experts issue regular reports which ensure that whenever our reservoirs increase their storage capacity, they supply the various service points within hospitals and the mortuary,” said Mvambi.  

He noted that these water challenges are beyond their scope.

“We are able to avert a crisis and continue to render quality services,” Mvambi added.

Yesterday, the Free State Department of Health lambasted the metro for taking their time before activating tankers.

However, Mvambi made a U-turn, expressing his appreciation towards the metro.

“We appreciate the support provided by the municipality which allowed us to fill up our reservoirs and jojo tanks. But, health is a water-intensive service and without the regular supply, our health service provision is compromised.”

Finding a solution

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality is supplying water tankers to areas affected, particularly the southern suburbs in Bloemfontein. 

Mangaung Mayor, Mxolisi Siyonzana, said that he has been engaging with the Bloem Water board and has been assured that they are doing everything they can to remedy the situation. 

The bulk water supplier is still busy with emergency repairs at the Welbedacht Dam. It is here where a Bloem Water employee died last weekend following an attempt to fix a pipe.

 Areas like Lourierpark, Fauna, Pellissier, Bayswater, Pentagon Park, Heuwelsig, Westdene, and parts of the city’s central business district (CBD) were especially hard hit. 

Pellissier and surrounding areas were affected first when the Welbedacht pipeline underwent maintenance which left the Brandkop reservoir empty.

Nurses, patients share their frustrations

A nurse who wished to remain anonymous shared with Health-e the difficulties in trying to provide adequate care to people.

“We are forced to send patients home because we can’t open our doors. There was no emergency tank because the department focuses on hospitals,” she explained.

Agnes Magagula*, who was due for her breast cancer removal surgery, said she had to wait three days before being wheeled into theatre.

“They told us that we’d be here for a while due to the water shortage. There are a lot of operations that have been put on hold,” said Magagula.

Thabiso Seekoi’s wife was brought to the Universitas Hospital for a leg amputation but the procedure is yet to take place.

“My leave is coming to an end. I had taken a few days to be with my wife but now they’ve put everything on hold,” said Seekoi.

Resident Steven Ngone added: “The municipality is failing us. It has since released a notice that we will have water soon, but we are still waiting. This also causes health hazards at our own home because not all of us are able to buy water.” – Health-e News 

* Not her real name 










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