Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom had to transfer critically ill patients to nearby facilities after cable theft left it without electricity for several hours last week. The provincial health department says the generator wires were also cut, so they could not switch to back-up power.
Health MEC, Montsheng Tsiu says in the early hours of Friday the Free State Department of Health was informed the electricity feeder cable to the hospital was stolen.
Immediate transfer of patients
“The hospital management took urgent and drastic measures to transfer patients under critical care to the nearby private hospitals. The department will continue to do risk assessments whilst also working hard with the relevant stakeholders to ensure the situation is under control,” says Tsiu.
Tsiu labelled the theft attempted murder and urged the community to help the police in their investigations. “Our community needs to work with the government to ensure that criminals do not take over and kill vital services such as health. The Department of Health condemns these acts of criminality and vandalism in the strongest terms.”
Provincial health department head Godfrey Mahlatsi says Eskom acted swiftly to replace the cable by Friday afternoon.
“We thank Eskom for their swift restorative actions. We also thank our health workers who acted consistently in the best interest of the patient under very stressful and strenuous conditions,” he says.
Mahlatsi says more security personnel is needed, but they do not have the budget.
“Cutting cables which provide life to patients in a hospital is equal to premeditated murder. Those thugs know that hospitals deal with life-and-death situations, so their criminality and thuggery also expose the department to possible medico-legal claims should anything happen to patients. This time no one lost their lives because of this,” he adds.
A nurse who was on shift when the theft happened, Gertrude Masena, says at first, they thought it was load-shedding. “But an hour and a half later, the power went off, and the generator failed to kick in,” she says.
One of the patients Serame Mothibi, applauded the hospital staff for their work. “They were using torches and mobile phones for light. They did well with limited resources to save the lives of those more ill than us.”
Police spokesperson Stephen Thakeng says they are investigating a case of copper theft and attempted murders. “We are waiting for full information on all patients on life support when the cables were cut off,” he says. – Health-e News