Johannesburg hospitals struggle to keep wards clean in ongoing water crisis
On Sunday afternoon, 17 September 2023, relatives of patients brought water in bottles along with food for their loved ones admitted to the Helen Joseph Hospital in Auckland Park as hospital taps once again ran dry. Johannesburg Water and Rand Water claim multiple reservoirs are under strain.
Health facilities such as Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital, Helen Joseph Hospital and Pholosong Hospital in Ekurhuleni are undergoing water supply interruptions.
Staff and patients have had to make do with no water in the facilities for almost a week, and nearly three weeks for others. A patient who bought herself water in the canteen said: “There is no water to wash your hands. I’ve been trying to avoid using the toilet. There are just small bottles of water inside.”
“I haven’t seen any water stored in big containers, there is no water,” the patient said. She has a chest infection and is dehydrated so she is on a drip.
In a statement released on Friday, 15 September, the Department of Health in Gauteng said that Helen Joseph experienced lower water pressure from Wednesday because Dunkeld Reservoir has low water levels. “The areas that are affected include the Accident and Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit and the various Wards,” the statement reads.
“The facility management is closely monitoring the situation and has put in place measures to divert Priority 1 (emergency and critical) and Priority 2 (urgent but stable) patients to other facilities when necessary,” said the Department’s spokesperson Motalatale Modiba.
On a visit on Sunday, taps were dry at Rahima Moosa Hospital and toilets unflushed. The institution has had inconsistent water supply since 6 September due to the Hursthill 1 Reservoir being critically affected.
Matome Tau, who lives in Coronationville near Rahima Moosa, said he was frustrated with the water crisis, and said he believed this is corruption. “All these water can trucks you see all around – someone is getting money for that and they won’t be needed if they don’t regularly cut water. We were getting some at night for the past few days so we put in buckets and water bottles,” he said.
Relatives arrived with water bottles and food for their visits, much like what’s been happening at Helen Joseph Hospital.
Motalatale Modiba said the Department apologised to patients and said Johannesburg Water had committed to despatch water tankers to the two health facilities to mitigate the impact on services.
“In addition, technicians from the Department of Infrastructure Development are currently monitoring the water level in the hospital tanks while waiting for water tankers,” he said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Images reveal how water shedding brings disease and indignity to two major Johannesburg hospitals
“Pholosong Hospital started experiencing water challenges on Thursday, 14 September, due to Rand Water’s Mapleton pump station not functioning. The hospital water reservoirs are very low which means the main reservoirs do not have sufficient water to pump into the feeder tank which then supplies the hospital.
“The hospital has since put measures [in place] which include the City of Ekurhuleni providing water tankers, hospital diversion to afford the hospital intermittent relief on all patients, especially Priority 1 patients and high-risk maternity, and postponing elective surgeries.
“The department would like to apologise to the patients and the public for the inconvenience that has been caused by the water challenge experienced by the water utilities. Health facilities, even with contingency measures in place still rely on a constant supply of water from the relevant authorities to carry out health services,” said Modiba.
Johannesburg Water’s update on Sunday says the Dunkeld Reservoir is on bypass mode due to low levels at Parktown Reservoir 2 and is under maintenance.
Brixton Reservoir has been opened at 50%, but is still critically low. Other areas with low reserves are communities receiving water from Crown Gardens, Alexandra Park, Eagles Nest, and Grand Central Water Reservoir, which is empty due to poor supply. DM