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Gauteng health facilities run out of diesel under load shedding strain

As the country reels from Eskom’s blackouts, health services countrywide, including in Gauteng, are taking massive strain, with some facilities in the province running out of money to buy diesel.

Three Gauteng public hospitals and 71 clinics have exhausted their fuel budgets, said Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, adding that R142m had been budgeted for diesel for the 2022/2023 financial year to 31 March. However, the department had already spent R148m by end-January, reports News24.

The Jubilee District Hospital, Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital and Far East Rand Regional Hospital have no money for diesel, while 20 clinics in Tshwane and 51 clinics on the West Rand were also affected.

The government recently announced new State of Disaster regulations that would allow exemptions for all government health institutions, it said. Deputy Health Minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo had also said the department, in partnership with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, was conducting a due diligence exercise for the installation of solar panels at all public health facilities.

"This exercise is inclusive of solar PV and battery storage as backup for critical hospital areas, based on an estimated demand profile on clinics, community health centres, and district, regional, central and specialised hospitals,” he said.

Immediate exemption plans under the new regulations applied only to health infrastructure, with Health Minister Joe Phaahla saying a team had identified 213 “absolutely essential” health institutions for exemptions.

Of these, 76 were already exempted but the rest were embedded in the grid and needed new lines built. Of those remaining, 46 were directly supplied by Eskom and building new lines for them would cost just more than R300m.

For the remaining 91 hospitals, supplied by municipalities, building new lines was still being costed. The government was working to speed up exempting these facilities, he said.

However, his announcement had no effect on opposition parties’ determination to continue their court case on load shedding, the end purpose being exemptions for a number of entities, despite warnings from Eskom that the orders they seek could lead to a grid meltdown.

The government and Eskom “created the load shedding mess … they must fix it”, said UDM leader Bantu Holomisa in court papers filed last week.

The UDM’s Ted Blom said Eskom “was exaggerating” in claiming that exempting not just hospitals but also schools and small businesses from planned power outages would defeat the purpose of load shedding, reports TimesLIVE.

Holomisa and Blom were replying to court papers from Eskom and President Cyril Ramaphosa on behalf of the UDM, other opposition parties, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, NGOs and individuals.

They have asked the Gauteng HIgh Court (Pretoria) to order that schools, health facilities, police stations, small and micro businesses dealing in perishable goods, electronic communication networks and water provision facilities be exempted from load shedding or alternatively be provided with other sources of energy e.g. generators or solar panels.

In Eskom’s court papers, former CEO André de Ruyter had said the institutions the applicants wanted exempted from load shedding were mostly “embedded” in distribution networks that include other customers.

Excluding them would mean excluding the other customers on the same distribution lines. “Given the large number of institutions and facilities the applicants seek to protect … there would be little load left to shed,” De Ruyter said.

This defeated the purpose of load shedding and “presents a manifest risk of grid collapse or blackout”. The only way to achieve it would be to reconfigure the grid, but this would take longer than the plan Eskom already had in place to address load shedding, De Ruyter had said.

Blom said that while De Ruyter had estimated it would cost the power utility R350m to exempt just public hospitals from load shedding, “most of Eskom’s quoted stats can be divided/multiplied, depending on the context, by a factor of around four”.

“So if Eskom quotes R350m to reconfigure the grid, it would probably cost an alternatively sourced provider around R90m and when Eskom says it will take four years to effect, it can probably be achieved in under one year,” said Blom.

ActionSA delivered its own replying affidavit, focusing on the recently published regulations, with the party’s Alistair Shaw saying the regulations largely mirrored what the applicants were seeking, which made it clear the orders sought are “neither unachievable nor impossible”.

 

News24 article – Gauteng public health facilities run out of diesel as load shedding intensifies (Open access)

 

TimesLIVE article – Government created load-shedding mess and must fix it — Holomisa (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Hospitals to be exempt from load shedding but it won’t happen overnight

 

Legal action threat as hospitals struggle with load shedding

 

Bara coughs up R3.4m for generator diesel during 2022 load shedding

 

 

 

 

 

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