POWER shortage: PATIENTS AT RISK

ESKOM has promised to sort out power shortages at KwaZulu-Natal's Manguzi Hospital, which have put the lives of patients in danger.

ESKOM has promised to sort out power shortages at KwaZulu-Natal's Manguzi Hospital, which have put the lives of patients in danger.

"In the short term there are plans and actions in place to strengthen the supply to Manguzi. These should come to fruition in the first three months of this year," Eskom's Peter Craig said.

Patients' lives were endangered by the lack of working air-conditioners in the hospital's operating theatre.

For the past four months doctors had been forced to operate using small fans to cool the theatre during hot northern KwaZulu-Natal summer weather, where temperatures sometimes reach 40ºC.

The lack of air conditioners also put patients in danger because wounds could easily become septic in the heat.

On several occasions urgent operations had to be cancelled and surgeons had been forced to conduct some procedures at night when it was cooler.

Craig said the Manguzi Hospital was at present fed from a constrained network.

"There have also been interventions at Manguzi Hospital to improve energy efficiency and reduce demand and so contribute to stabilising the situation," he said.

To meet the area's growing demand the power utility was going to build a new power line and substation in the area as part of its long-term plan.

"Eskom has already begun negotiations with the Department of Energy and has requested funding for the building of the new substation and line," he said.

The Manguzi area was hit by a power shortage in 2005, forcing Eskom to stop accepting new applications for connections from residents. Priority was given to schools, businesses, clinics and hospitals.

Last year Eskom started connecting Manguzi to neighbouring Mozambique's electricity grid.

The project had been completed, but Craig said the imported power was not enough to meet the demand. - Sapa

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