THE stench from blocked toilets hits you immediately you step into Nkhensani Hospital in the Mopani district of Giyani, Limpopo, which has been without water sinceSaturday.
Patients and staff have to endure the risk of getting sick because of the hospital's broken boreholes.
The situation has seen medical staff and patients alike travelling to a nearby garage or to town to respond to the call of nature.
Most of the affected areas are the theatres, the X-ray section, outpatients, maternity and intensive care units.
The hospital is now dependent on the water brought in tanks by the Mopani district municipality. However, the supply is a drop in the ocean given the amount of water used by the "very busy units".
Hospital chief executive Ernest Mboweni says the situation got out of hand on Saturday.
"We received calls that there was no water in the hospital. On arrival we found that the four boreholes that supply water to the hospital had broken down.
"We approached the local municipality, which responded by providing water in tanks, but it is not enough to help complete the day-to-day activities of the hospital.
"We need lots of running water in all the wards. The situation has mostly affected patients who now have to walk long distances to a nearby filling station or to town to relieve themselves," Mboweni said.
Visiting the hospital's toilets is a very testing experience because they stink of urine and faeces.
Patients who spoke to Sowetan yesterday said that some nurses had not attended to them, saying it was "unhygienic".
Some patients claimed they had slept on the floor and benches unattended for nearly 12 hours "because all the medical staff do is move around complaining about the smell".
"I came here at 5am and since then no nurse or doctor has spoken to me," Rackson Masutha said.
Mboweni, however, said operations at the hospital were not completely disrupted as doctors poured water brought in tanks into some of the machines manually.
"This exercise is very demanding though because it takes time for the machines to work properly," he said.
Provincial health spokesperson Selby Makgotho said technicians had been dispatched to the hospital to fix the broken boreholes.
The Nkhensani Hospital water crisis comes barely a year after Helene Franz Hospital in the Blouberg district experienced negative publicity after some patients referred to it as the "hospital of death".
At the time, the hospital had recorded the highest number of deaths than any other health institution in the province.
The hospital was said to be so feared that sick people in the area refused to be admitted there, preferring to face death at their homes.
Patients claimed that linen was dirty, the toilets were blocked and that many wards were unhygienic.
After several protest marches, Helene Franz's chief executive officer was advised to resign. He obliged and the hospital board wassubsequently reshuffled.
Makgotho said that the provincial health department and hospital management had subsequently made "getting Helene Franz Hospital right" a top priority.
"We can now speak without doubt that all systems are in place and working 100percent and that the theatre and the previously broken boiler is working," he said.