`IAs South Africans try to cope with the ongoing load shedding situation, health facilities across the country are under severe pressure to maintain their day-to-day activities. Sadly, this sometimes means losing a patient when oxygen or life-saving equipment isn’t readily available.
The National Health Department said 70 percent of public facilities have generators, but health workers say these are often unfueled and unmaintained.
When a life is on the line
In light of the dire situation, the President of the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union, Lerato Madumo-Gova, described the impact of load shedding as a matter of life and death.
“Load shedding is affecting all our public health facilities in the country. All the facilities depend on electricity supply,” said Madumo-Gova.
She added: “It’s a matter of life and death because the mortality rates go up with every power cut. Especially if a person is on resuscitation or oxygen. If things don’t go as planned, someone dies every time there is a power cut.’
Newborn babies in neonatal ICU and oxygen-dependent patients are the most affected.
“Most of the hospital equipment uses electricity. In the intensive care unit, we have ventilators and infusion pumps that depend on electricity. When there is load-shedding, there is a slight delay with having the backup kick in.”https://t.co/wdR5ECRP1O
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The psychological impact
Madumo-Gova further indicated that the blackouts also affect healthcare workers’ mental health.
“Psychologically, it is bad. It’s depressing looking at the load shedding schedule, knowing that a power cut will affect your shift. Especially during night shifts. What’s worse is that we also have to deal with staff shortages on top of having no electricity,” she explained.
According to Sibongiseni Delihlazo, Communications Manager for the Democratic Nursing Organisation (DENOSA), most public health facilities are not well prepared to deal with power cuts.
“DENOSA’s main concern is that hospitals aren’t well prepared. You can’t just have a standby generator. A standby generator needs maintenance and fuel. They also don’t kick in immediately when load shedding starts. It’s a serious matter that requires urgent attention,” said Delihlazo.
He also explained how load shedding could put healthcare workers in danger of litigation when a procedure goes wrong during power cuts.
“When a generator kicks in, it’s important that the most critical parts of a unit have light. The ICU and delivery rooms are prime examples. If the electricity goes off while a nurse is overseeing the delivery of a baby, a lot can go wrong. This places our nurses at risk of legal action in such situations,” Delihlazo added.
He also said healthcare workers are more vulnerable to criminal activities during load shedding. Leaving work after a night shift is a perfect time for criminals to strike.
‘Minimal disruptions so far’
National health department spokesperson Foster Mohale stated that there had been minimal disruptions because most facilities have generators or batteries.
“The ideal is to have alternative electricity sources for all our facilities. This is in line with our ideal clinic standards which include good infrastructure, adequate staff, medicines and supplies, and good administrative processes,” said Mohale.
According to Mohale, they are yet to receive any reports from provinces about the level of impact of load shedding on health service delivery. – Health-e News