The St Rita’s Hospital in the Sekhukhune District in Limpopo has been caught in the middle of an ongoing water crisis as protesters wreak havoc on water supplies.
To mitigate the crisis, the Sekhukhune District Municipality (SDM) is using tankers to supply water to the hospital as infuriated residents continue to disrupt operations at the water treatment plant close to the Riverside village.
Suspect water quality
But Mogoshadi Kwenadi*, a nurse at St Rita’s, doubts the quality of water supplied by the SDM trucks.
“I poured some water to drink in a glass and it was brownish with some impurities. I wonder where these trucks are drawing it from?” Kwenadi asked.
Meanwhile, Babsy Mahlaba who visited the hospital for eye treatment recently, said while the stench was no longer as severe as three weeks ago, he saw some stains and piles of dirty laundry.
Another patient, Meriam Noko* described how patients were bringing their own water.
“When I first visited my sister who sustained injuries during a car accident, I saw people bringing water in 5L containers for their relatives. When I visited again, I also bought a container and took it with me,” said Noko.
Nelly Modipadi 28* who gave birth at the hospital last week said although staff members tried their best, the stench was still there.
“I saw workers boiling water from trucks and using it sparingly. I am just glad I was able to give birth given my concerns about waterborne diseases. There is not enough water in the bathrooms,” said Modipadi.
Protesters speak out
Some villagers next to the hospital said the blockade of water pipelines was their last resort to force authorities to give them drinking water regularly.
“Our taps are dry and yet a pipeline runs through our area to the hospital. For years, the SDM had been telling us that water would flow to us from De Hoop and Flag Boshielo dams. It is a forever promise that never materialises,” said a school teacher in the area.
Limpopo Department of Health responds
The Limpopo Department of Health is unhappy that the water crisis has affected hospital operations.
“The department is currently running the flagship program of Rural Health Matters in the district to reduce backlogs. As one of two hospitals hosting the programme, the specialists at St Rita’s have been experiencing disruptions due to the water supply disruptions.
“Without trivialising the concern of the Riverside community, the department wishes to call on the community to find other means of venting their frustrations. This hospital is there to serve them and other people,” said provincial Health Department spokesperson, Neil Shikwambana.
DENOSA enters the troubled waters
According to the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (DENOSA) in Limpopo, the lack of sufficient water in a health institution means nurses, patients, doctors and almost everyone under the same roof, is in great danger of infectious diseases including COVID-19.
Jacob Molepo, DENOSA Provincial Secretary, is concerned about the lack of hygiene.
“No water, handwashing, laundry and cleaning means more infections. If nurses, doctors, allied workers, patients and visitors to hospitals cannot wash hands sufficiently, they spread infections among themselves. They can also take these infections home to relatives and neighbours,” said Molepo.
“We call on the health department and government to ensure there is water for citizens and health facilities,” he added.
“Even this water brought to the hospital by relatives and the municipal tankers might be at risk since there is no guarantee that it’s safe. Workers and patients are therefore exposed to possible infections and deaths. This can lead to some people instituting legal actions against health facilities and government,” Molepo warned.
Traditional leaders to investigate
Kgoshigadi NJ Seopela, Chairperson of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (CONTRALESA) for the Sehukhune region, expressed shock at the water crisis hitting St Rita’s Hospital.
“We are launching our investigation as the regional executive of CONTRALESA to have a clear picture of the situation in the way forward,” said Seopela.
Shikwambana further added that the hospital has been relying on water tankers from the district municipality since the start of the problem.
Contacted for comment, the SMD referred Health-e-News to a member of its mayoral committee (MMC) for Infrastructure and Water Services, Bella Kupa. But Kupa failed to respond to calls and WhatsApp messages.
Rural health outreach could dry out
Launched by provincial Health MEC, Dr Phophi Ramathuba, Rural Health Matters outreach programmes in the Sekhukhune district have been rolled out simultaneously at St Rita’s Hospital and Philadelphia Hospital in Dennilton outside Groblersdal.
However, some residents have expressed fear that health and medical services could collapse unless the water is restored to villagers and the hospital. They also called for the creation of a safe passage for the pipeline supplying the hospital. – Health-e-News
* Not their real names