Prolonged power outage leaves hospitals in the dark for two days

The entrance of a hospital
Power was restored to the hospital on Tuesday. (Palesa Matlala)

Power has been restored in central Johannesburg after a transformer burned on Sunday, leaving residents – and hospitals – in the dark. 

Since 11 am on Sunday Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital had been operating at 65% capacity. The facility was relying on a backup generator for more than two days. As a result, the hospital only prioritised emergency procedures. 

Charlotte Maxeke Hospital which sees about 70,000 patients a month was one of five health facilities that were left in the dark when a transformer burned. Berea, Hillbrown, Parktown and surrounding areas had been without power since. Other health facilities affected were Netcare Parklane Hospital, Life Brenthurst Clinic, Netcare Rand Clinic and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. 

The four other facilities confirmed to Health-e News on Tuesday the power was restored.

“City Power has indicated that its team is looking at what could have been the cause of the trip so that they can fully restore the power supply. Elective procedures had to be deferred and there  will also be delays in some areas given that we are not at full capacity,” says Gauteng health spokesperson Motalatale Modiba. 

He says the sterilisation of surgical equipment was also affected as these required high pressure of electricity.

“Clinicians had to make decisions in terms of prioritising emergency procedures over elective ones. In our facilities we have backup generators. Unfortunately a hospital cannot run 100% on generators. Our generators are not meant to run non- stop. We do have some kind of capacity but it depends on the nature of the situation. If it is prolonged we will start feeling the strain,” Modiba says.

In a media statement City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said that the outage was caused by theft and vandalism to the infrastructure. 

Modiba adds that seeing the increased power outages, the provincial health department is looking forward to the roll-out of solar energy solutions by the Gauteng government. 

In the 2024 State of the Province Address of 2024, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi announced a programme to install solar panels in public health facilities. But, due to budget constraints, only 11 of the province’s 37 public hospitals will  benefit in this financial year. Charlotte Maxeke is not one of these facilities.  

Speaking on behalf of the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure, Alfred Nhlapo says only R155 million was budgeted to provide backup solar power at 28 public healthcare facilities – these include clinics and community health centres. 

“There is not enough budget and the installation is done in phases. This is a big project for the healthcare facilities because the amount of power they are generating is equivalent to six independent generating power plants,” he says. 

He says the department of infrastructure has implemented 27 solar rooftop plants and battery storages with a total capacity of 6.3MWh and 15.6MWh at hospitals, community healthcare centres and clinics around the province. 

“One of the primary benefits of solar energy for the hospitals is to limit load shedding. There will be a significant reduction of the electricity bill and enable cost savings as solar power is the primary energy generated from renewable energy,” Nhlapo says. – Health-e News

Authors

  • Yoliswa Sobuwa
  • Palesa Matlala

    Palesa Matlala, is a photojournalist and documentary photographer. Prior to joining Health-e, she wrote for ThisAbility Newspaper focusing on disability activism. She formed part of a research team for the SABC 2 disability magazine Activated. She was also an intern at Bhekisisa Centre of Health journalism. Her interests are telling community health stories, focusing on mental health, women's health and early childhood development.

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