Healthcare budget strained under persistent load shedding

The Department of Health says healthcare facilities around the country have reported strained budgets, with 12-month supplies of diesel and oil for generators already exhausted due to the frequency of load shedding.

Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla told the media on Friday that the department approached National Treasury for financial assistance, explaining that hospitals could not predict or avoid the severe impact of higher stages of load shedding.

He says persistent power outages have not only affected access to healthcare but also contribute to some critical medical machinery and equipment having a reduced lifespan.

“The department is engaging the National Treasury to discuss the additional budget implications to sustain the load shedding contingency plans, including unbudgeted increase in diesel and oil expenditure to run the generators and maintenance costs,” Phaahla adds.

This comes after the minister announced that 37 hospitals have been exempt from load shedding following discussions with Eskom, provincial heads of departments and municipalities.

The health facilities exempt from load shedding are:

  • Gauteng: Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Helen Joseph Hospital, Steve Biko Academic Hospital, George Mukhari Hospital, Pretoria West Hospital, Tshwane District Hospital, Mamelodi Hospital, Bronkhorstspruit Hospital and Kalafong Hospital
  • Free State: Pelonomi Private Hospital
  • KwaZulu Natal: Harry Gwala Hospital, Greys Hospital, Ladysmith Hospital, Prince Mshiyeni Hospital, RK Khan Hospital, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, McCords Hospital, King Dinuzulu Hospital, Mandela Children’s Hospital, Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, Osindisweni Hospital, St Aidans Hospital, Addington Hospital and Clairwood Hospital
  • Limpopo: Mankweng Hospital, Lebowakgomo Hospital, Dilokong Hospital and Maklenburg Hospital
  • Eastern Cape: Frere Hospital, Elliot Hospital, Livingstone Hospital, Port Elizabeth Hospital and Uitenhage Hospital
  • Western Cape: Tygerberg Hospital, Groote Schuur Hospital, Red Cross Hospital

Phaahla says three hospital names have been submitted for the Northern Cape and is still waiting for a response on Witbank and Rob Ferreira hospitals in Mpumalanga.

He says engagements between the department, Eskom and municipalities have resulted in an agreement that provincial departments will submit consolidated lists of facilities indicating their location to assist in the determination on the workable criteria of exemption.

“The criteria for hospital exclusion include patients’ volume, nature of specialised services they provide and technological and medical equipment they have,” he adds.

“The exclusions or exemptions do not mean the facilities should use electricity without limitations. We have made it clear to Eskom that we have joined their call to ensure that even our health facilities use electricity sparingly, productively, and purposefully at all times.”

Phaahla says the department is also considering a phased approach to investing in renewable energy through solar power installation at health facilities as part of the energy mix consisting of power from the national grid, uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and lithium batteries.

“Load shedding compels us that in future, when we construct new facilities, we must revise our plans and costs to include new sources of energy, renewables, over and above generators.”

“In addition, we must ensure the installation of the dedicated feeder line to avoid the current exercise of reconfiguring the electricity networks.”

Phaahla says the department will continue to work to mitigate against the risks of load shedding on healthcare facilities and is looking to secure more facilities for exemption.

Nondumiso Lehutso is a Moneyweb intern.

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