Sunday, May 23, 2010

More Jollies from South Africa

Crisis at Baragwanath

Hospital blackout, drips inserted by torchlight, because power bill not paid

As parents mourned the death at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital of six babies, 40 infants from the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit were transferred to Soweto's Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital.

But, by late yesterday, the biggest hospital in Africa was dealing with its own crisis - power cuts because its management had failed to pay the electricity bill.

The children's ward has had intermittent blackouts for the past three days. Emergency generators did not kick in because the hospital had no diesel left to power them.

A staff member said some of the paediatric wards had "about half an hour of electricity" in eight hours yesterday.

On Tuesday night, nurses resorted to "using their cellphone lights to put drips into patients."

In anticipation of further power cuts last night, the paediatric admissions ward was moved to a spare room in the metabolic unit.

"It's all right because we can see during the day, but it's not okay at night because we can't examine patients and we can't write notes and we can't put up drips," the staff member said.

Another staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "We don't know how long this is going to last."

Patients waiting in queues were warned that it was unlikely that they would be attended to if the power failure persisted. They were advised to go home.

"We were told today that there would not be power," said the staff member.

While the paediatric unit dipped in and out of darkness, lights were on in the orthopaedic unit and the neonatal unit.

But nurses in the neonatal unit have been warned that the hospital will be supplying them with torches because more blackouts were expected.

Gauteng health and social development MEC Qedani Mahlangu said the cuts were due to "cash-flow problems" at the hospital. "Because we were owing a lot of service providers from the end of the last financial year, Treasury said our quota for this financial year is done," she said.

"That's why the service providers have not been paid."

Health department spokesman Mandla Sidu confirmed that the hospital had run out of diesel fuel for its generators. - Additional reporting by Sapa

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