The state hospital in De Aar has been without hot water for almost a year and doctors are forced to scrub with cold water before operations and births. On top of that, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic where people are constantly being warned to wash their hands with soap and warm water. The government’s defense now is that the budget for the provincial department of public works has been depleted.
“On Wednesday morning the temperature was minus 3 ̊ C and patients had to be washed in cold water,” says Gerhard Engelbrecht, the chairman of the town’s taxpayers’ association. “I can not believe that a hospital can function without hot water.”
One of the few private doctors still working in De Aar’s state hospital, Dr. Niekie van Aswegen, the premier of the Northern Cape, Dr. Zemani Saul, had already been informed by letter about the problems in June, but nothing had been done about the precarious situation.
“Hot water is a basic necessity during a birth. You also cannot scrub properly with cold water, because the soap needs hot water to work, ”
“This poses a major risk to septic wounds and the liability of the hospital.”
The risk of infection is further increased because the theater’s doors apparently cannot close. In addition, the air conditioning has been out of order since last year, which also makes it extremely dangerous to administer anesthesia when a patient is hypothermic, according to Dr. Van Aswegen’s letter.
The device used to sterilize the theater also apparently only works occasionally and it takes two weeks each time to repair it. The equipment then has to be transported 140 kilometers away at astronomical cost to Colesberg Hospital to sterilize it there.
Van Aswegen was not available for comment and the senior nurse in charge of the hospital, Maureen Oliphant, declined to provide any details about the hot water problem or the maintenance contractor.
Public Works spokesperson Crystal Robertson said on inquiry that the contractor in question was appointed by the Independent Development Trust (OOT).
The OOT is the state-owned enterprise responsible on behalf of the government for the implementation and delivery of critically essential social infrastructure programs.
The OOT’s spokesperson, Pasha Makgolane, replied on Thursday that they had been aware of the problem since January 2020, but that repairs could not be done because the department of public works in the Northern Cape’s budget for maintenance had been exhausted.
“The elements that need to heat the water apparently burn out because there are a lot of impurities in the borehole water that need to be heated.” He said the OOT is currently awarding a tender to replace the water purification plant that will solve the problem.