Patients at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH) have had to bear the brunt of what has been termed as “poor maintenance” following the flooding of several wards on Monday.
Many patients had to be transferred to other wings of the hospital, while some remained without beds following the flooding.
Wards, hallways, staircases and the lifts were covered in water after a pipe burst.
Gauteng health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana told City Press that the flooding was as a result of a burst pipe on level 16 (roof level) in block five of the hospital.
Covid-19 patients were among those affected and had to be transferred. The flood also further delayed the resumption of CT scanning services at the public hospital.
DA member of the Gauteng health portfolio committee Jack Bloom said:
The flood also forced the closure of the ICU wards used for Covid-19 patients, which Bloom said was “an untimely blow as cases surge”.
With the country staring down a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections following the emergence of a new variant, Bloom said it was imperative that those at the helm of the hospital maintained this vital institution.
“There have been problems with leaking pipes at this hospital for many years, which is due to poor maintenance. It is extremely unfortunate that the flooding has affected the ICU for Covid-19 patients, which is vitally needed as we face a surge of fourth wave cases,” he said.
In September, City Press reported that the CMJAH cardiac unit had been deemed dysfunctional and high-risk, according to the Gauteng department of infrastructure development.
By Tuesday afternoon, more than 40 patients had been moved, including five Covid-19 patients, while three others had not been placed due to a lack of beds, communications from doctors revealed.
Kekana said that the cost of damages following the flooding had yet to be established, adding that “no patients had been moved outside of the facility”.
Kekana explained that due to CMJAH being a central academic hospital with highly specialised services, and which uses a referral system, no patients were turned away due to the flooding.
City Press has seen internal communication from a healthcare specialist working at CMJAH who floated the idea of a protest. They say there is a total lack of support from the Gauteng health department and provincial and national government.
The specialist, who used words such as “absolute irritation” and “despair” when referring to the situation, said government's lack of support was the one constant they have seen through the difficulties CMJAH had experienced from the fire and the flooding this year.
According to a source who spoke to City Press on condition of anonymity, the floods in block 5 started at 2:30am on Monday and spread to all wards, passages, stairs and lifts in that section.
Medical wards were severely flooded, the source said.
The source said that while the pipe had been repaired, electrical boards still needed to be dried.
It is expected that this may be repaired on Tuesday.
The Gauteng health department confirmed that the floods has resulted in the hospital’s CT scanner being out of operation.
In a statement, it said that the CT scanner has had intermittent operation failures, since the beginning of November, due to faulty air-conditioning in the oncology department.
Even though a new air conditioning system had been installed, the machine could not be calibrated due to a burst water pipe on Monday, it said in the statement.
Gauteng health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi said the department hoped to have the machine back online today.
“We can assure [concerned patients] that the matter is receiving urgent attention and as soon as all the technical issues are addressed, we will invite them back,” she said.
The hospital is still not fully functional after it was gutted by a fire in April. Following the fire, former health minister Zweli Mkhize revealed that an estimated R40 million worth of personal protective equipment and other essentials were burnt in the blaze.In September, Wits University students protested the “hazardous” conditions that they had to contend with in the course of their training. They complained of leaking sewage, a constant gas smell and limited space that made social distancing impossible.
The hospital’s emergency unit is set to be back in operation from January.