Hospital plunged in darkness

2019-03-27 06:02
Measures are in place to avoid another blackout at the Pelonomi Tertiary Hospital.Photo: Teboho Setena

Measures are in place to avoid another blackout at the Pelonomi Tertiary Hospital.Photo: Teboho Setena

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The Department of Health has blamed the recent blackout caused by failed generators at the Pelonomi Tertiary Hospital in Bloemfontein on the prolonged loadshedding.

As the hospital’s generators are regarded as essential in cases of emergency, their failure to work sparked concerns about the prospects of patients on life support.

The generators stopped working due to an alleged lack of diesel on 16 March during the night, plunging the entire hospital into darkness and wreaking havoc.

Nurses and doctors who were on-call used their cellphones for light.

Patients who had been waiting at the emergency unit for MRI or X-ray scans could only be attended to after the electricity supply was reconnected on 17 March.

According to Mondli Mvambi, spokesperson of the department, all the generators automatically kicked in on 16 March at around 18:00 when loadshedding took place.

“The loadshedding lasted until 03:00 on 17 March. This prolonged loadshedding was due to the problems experienced by the municipality in switching the electricity back on.”

He said of the dedicated seven generators, one specific generator which supplies Netcare operated beyond the schedule time.

“It operated perfectly for six hours until it ran out of diesel,” Mvambi said.

That was when the hospital was plunged into darkness at around 00:30.

According to Mvambi, the generator ran out of diesel because the loadshedding went on for longer than expected.

“When the generator ran out of diesel, the electrician was already on site and a mechanical artisan was called to assist. The two artisans manually refilled the diesel and restarted the generator successfully to restore the supply. The whole process took about an hour and a half,” said Mvambi.

He said the artisans left the hospital at 03:00 on Sunday, 17 March, after verifying that everything was in order.

“The hospital has seven new backup generators that were installed in April 2018, replacing the old ones that have been around for over 40 years. The generators are designated to service different buildings or areas.”

Mvambi said all the generators are diesel-driven and can operate for approximately eight hours before the diesel runs out. He said the hospital has a sound testing programme for the generators.

Hospital artisans test the generators every Friday and inspect the load.

“Once every month, the generators are tested on a full load by cutting the electrical supply from the municipality,” he said.

On the issue of darkness experienced at the hospital, Mvambi said: “It must be noted that not all lights and plugs in the wards are connected to emergency generators because of capacity requirements.”

At around 22:00 on 16 March, the standby power was still available, offering coverage to those connected to the generator.

“The standby policy stipulates that anyone on the list should report on duty within 30 minutes when called. The electrician was called at 21:00, and reported to the office of the after-hour matron at 21:30.”

Mvambi said measures are in place to avoid a reoccurrence of the blackout.

“The department would like to thank all medical and allied health professionals who ensured that no patient was adversely affected by this moment of temporary inconvenience.”

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