Maverick Citizen


Second theft in a week at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital forces surgery patients to be moved

Second theft in a week at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital forces surgery patients to be moved
(Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

Two operating theatres at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital had their cooling systems compromised on Wednesday when copper piping — supplying the theatres with water — was stolen.

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital has suffered yet another theft that left patients’ lives at risk. The latest incident comes after 10m of copper cable was stolen during the early hours of Monday morning. These cables supplied oxygen to sections of the main Intensive Care Unit.

Then, on Wednesday, copper pipes leading to two general surgery theatres — used to supply high-pressure water — were cut and stolen, resulting in cooling systems being compromised.

“It looks like criminal actors found their way into one of the plant rooms and… cut the copper pipes feeding the two theatres with water,” said Motalatale Modiba, spokesperson for the department of health in Gauteng. 

This resulted in a failure in the autoclave system — the machine that sterilises equipment in theatres — and “patients had to be moved to a different ward for operations”.

Police spokesperson Colonel Noxolo Kweza confirmed that a case of theft had been opened with the Diepkloof police.

Easy access

Victor Moreriane, chief communications director of the Gauteng department of infrastructure development, said the three-metre copper piping stolen on Wednesday, 21 December was not in an access-controlled plant room.

“We have done the same process once more of immediately bringing a support service on-site to ensure the matter is attended to as quickly as possible,” he said.

“The team working on site will complete the process [on Friday] because there are some parts that we are still trying to source, like the valves and so on.”

Emergency security measures to be implemented

Moreriane believes copper pipes at the hospital are being deliberately targeted by thieves.

These pipes were in a plant room, so it is clear now that these plant rooms are being targeted,” he said.

Additional security measures will soon be implemented by the department of infrastructure development, according to Moreriane. The hospital does have security guards, but only in certain areas of the facility.

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“We have asked hospital management to ensure that the security guards do regular patrols,” he said.

An emergency procurement process has begun to ensure that all plant rooms become access-controlled, said Moreriane. 

A statement by the Gauteng health department said the provincial government would soon announce measures to deal with the security situation.

“There are various measures being introduced to beef up security at the facility,” said Modiba.

Act of sabotage

Modiba described the thefts as a “concentrated effort of sabotage”.

The health department’s Foster Mohale said: “The National Department of Health has been in close contact with Gauteng health and hospital authorities about the spate of criminal activities targeted at our health facilities to sabotage the public health system. 

“We are ready to provide any form of support to ensure that our health facilities remain operational, and intensify security measures in collaboration with law enforcement agencies.” DM/MC


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