Home News Kimberley mental hospital crippled by cable theft

Kimberley mental hospital crippled by cable theft

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Labour unions have slammed the R2 billion Kimberley Mental Health Hospital as a “monumental catastrophe” where, they said, “nothing was functioning”.

The Kimberley Mental Health Hospital. File picture: Soraya Crowie

LABOUR unions have slammed the R2 billion Kimberley Mental Health Hospital as a “monumental catastrophe” where, they said, “nothing was functioning”.

Members of the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), the Public Servants Association (PSA), the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) demonstrated outside the hospital this week to protest against the regular electricity outages at the controversial psychiatric facility.

Non-essential staff left their posts at around 1pm on Wednesday, while nurses were left to work in the dark and heat until their shifts ended.

Union representatives stated that they were preparing for mass action as working conditions were making it impossible for staff to carry out their duties.

“Billions were spent on opening this hospital, yet nothing works. We advised our members against working here. It is nothing but political grandstanding. The power is off more than on and it is dangerous to work without electricity, especially with psychiatric patients,” they said.

“The employer also expects workers to deliver services without the basic tools of trade.”

They added that the power outages were apparently due to the theft of high-voltage cables.

“Whoever is stealing the cables appears to know what they are doing because it happens on a regular basis.”

They stated that medicines were being stored at West End Hospital as scheduled drugs could not be kept in cold storage.

“Someone has to drive to West End Hospital to collect medication whenever it needs to be dispensed to patients.”

The unions also indicated that food had to be cooked on a two-plate gas stove. “There are around 200 patients and it takes forever to cook meals.

“During electricity cuts, the water supply is also interrupted. The biometric system is out of order despite millions of rand that were spent on the system,” they added.

The unions stated that workers returned to their posts after 1 400 litres of the promised 4,500 litres of diesel was delivered on Tuesday to power the generator.

“This did not even last us into the night as the hospital was plunged into darkness again at around 8pm. We are waiting for the generator that has a capacity of 9 000 litres of diesel to be topped up. It is too risky to leave the windows open as there are too many snakes and scorpions that could creep in.”

Northern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo explained that the power failures were due to cable theft at the electrical power sub-station.

“Cable theft and burglary have caused service delivery disruptions over time, although the dedicated team managed to minimise the impact on patients,” said Mxekezo.

She indicated that the department had appointed an electrical engineering entity to oversee the restoration of power to the facility and surrounding institutions affected by this electrical crisis.

“⁠The hospital is supported by a standby generator that is managed by manual load shedding to preserve its diesel, lasting on average one and a half weeks.

“The mental health hospital is an essential service and labour intensive, hence any withdrawal of services invariably has a detrimental effect on the service platform.”

Mxekezo added that hospital management had secured a short-term service contract to expedite the replenishment of diesel as needed, while the restoration of a permanent power supply was under way.

She acknowledged that mental health patients were prone to display aggression as a “common clinical manifestation”.

“However, it is worth noting the effects of the electricity disruption may affect their rehabilitation process. Hence, it is important to minimise as much as possible the impact of these disruptions.”

She stated that the kitchen management was providing meals for the 150-odd patients admitted to the facility

“The responsiveness of the hospital personnel and management has indeed ensured the temporary transfer of pharmacy operations to the West End Tuberculosis Hospital site to enhance safe, secure and prompt pharmaceutical services, supported by hospital transport.

Minimal cold chain and other pharmaceuticals are kept within the mental health wards to effectively manage pharmaceutical services and potential emergencies,” Mxekezo said.

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