Quick-thinking staff praised after storm plunges Durban hospital into darkness

2019-04-18 18:42
Addington Hospital

Addington Hospital

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Staff at the Addington Hospital in Durban were praised on Thursday for their quick thinking and the way in which they managed critically ill patients and those going into labour. This was after parts of the facility were plunged into darkness during a severe storm.

On Wednesday, storm water seeped into the hospital's main power supply in the basement during the night, shutting down power for five hours in critical wards such as the intensive care unit (ICU), neonatal ICU and operation theatre, the provincial health department explained.

At the time, the hospital had two adults and a boy (12) in the intensive care unit, while three pregnant mothers - one with a complication - were in the labour ward and waiting to go into theatre.

"The power generator did not automatically kick in because it is programmed to do so only during a full power outage. It could not be switched on manually due to the flooding, and the potential danger from a mixture of water and electricity," the department said in a statement issued on Thursday.

The life-support machines were operating on back-up power but the three expectant mothers needed to go into theatre.

Disaster mode

Provincial Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the situation forced staff to go into disaster mode and they managed the situation with aplomb.

Doctors and nurses had their hands full upstairs while the electrical contractor worked flat-out to clear the water-logged basement and find the electrical fault.

With the lifts not operational, the woman with the complication was able to walk down the stairs from the 8th floor to the 3rd for assistance.

She eventually delivered her baby and they were both doing well.

The other women subsequently underwent successful Caesarean sections, while the ICU patients remained stable.

Power was restored around 01:30 on Friday.

"We would like to thank the management and staff of this hospital for springing into action when this situation unfolded. They did not panic, but rather showed great maturity and decisiveness in dealing with this emergency," said Dhlomo.

"Although there was a power failure and the hospital was in the dark, they were still able to ventilate the patients. We also thank the mothers who are pregnant for persevering and doing as they were told. It was really tough. But we’re happy to say that all the patients are well, safe and sound this morning."

Normal operations

Dhlomo said the situation could have been worse without a disaster plan.

"This was completely unforeseen, yet they were able to implement the disaster management plan and think on their feet to save lives. This is what we’re always saying: people who manage our health facilities must always have a Plan B."

Normal operations resumed but only the food and waste lifts were operational. The four patient/visitor lifts had to be repaired.

Head of Department Dr Musa Gumede visited the hospital on Thursday morning and said the water had been pumped out, the power was back and electricians were still on site.

"We are doing everything to ensure that the lifts are back in an operational state as soon as possible, and wish to plead with the public, staff and patients to be patient at this time."

Read more on:    health
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