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Water crisis plagues Helen Joseph Hospital

Emergency, intensive care unit feel the pressure

Helen Joseph Hospital is experiencing a water shortage affecting services in some parts of the facility. File image
Helen Joseph Hospital is experiencing a water shortage affecting services in some parts of the facility. File image
Image: Thulani Mbele

Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg faces a low water pressure crisis.  

Hospital acting CEO Dr Rodney Pheto said he did not know when the problem, which started on Thursday, affecting the emergency department, intensive care unit and some wards, would be resolved.  

The cause of the problem was yet to be identified.  

“We have the Gauteng department of infrastructure, artisans and managers on site and they have been around since Saturday and I was with them yesterday [Sunday],” he said.  

Johannesburg Water had been supportive in ensuring there was a supply to the hospital water tanks.  

“What usually happens is the tanks, which are on the fifth floor, are supposed to be full before the whole hospital can receive water. 

“We know there is low pressure, but we are not sure if there is a burst pipe underground or maybe there could be a diversion to a different area or building within the hospital.”

Pheto said as a multi-floor building, the low water pressure affected the delivery of water to the upper floors of the hospital..  

“It [low water pressure] has had a seriously negative impact. The theatres where we have surgical procedures have been delayed, others have been postponed depending on the need.  

“Another area affected is the emergency department, the one that receives critically ill or injured patients via private cars or ambulances,” he said.  

The hospital had to divert some patients to other facilities and Pheto said it also affected neighbouring facilities like Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and Leratong Hospital.  

“When we are on divert, we are also impacting negatively on the surrounding hospitals.  

“There is a higher risk of infection because every time a nursing or a medical clinician sees a patient they must wash their hands in running water, but now we are using water in containers and that is unhealthy.”

Pheto said the hospital has water on the ground, first and second floors, but surgical and medical wards were still affected.  

“The surgical and medical wards don’t have water. There is a problem in flushing toilets for staff and patients. We are using buckets. .”  

The hospital has bought bottled water for drinking by patients and staff members and portable toilets had been requested to be placed outside the hospital.. 

The hospital has battled water outages and supply constraints for at least two years, with the city's ageing infrastructure a contributing factor. 

Last year it was so bad that humanitarian aid organisation Gift of the Givers drilled a borehole for the hospital. 

Johannesburg Water said its team was on site checking surrounding streets and found the water supply was normal.  

“From Johannesburg Water, the incoming pressure is normal from our meter,” spokesperson Nolwazi Dhlamini said.

“However, investigations are ongoing with Johannesburg Water and the Gauteng department of infrastructure and development technicians on the ground.”  

Earlier on Monday, Johannesburg Water said cleaning of Hursthill Reservoir 2 was under way and has resulted in no water in parts of the reservoir zone, particularly affecting customers in Auckland Park, Melville and Parktown West.  

“While it is shut down, residents have been receiving water through its bypass system. However, water supply from Rand Water has reduced and Johannesburg Water teams are liaising with the bulk supplier to determine the cause of the low supply.”  

The cleaning is expected to be completed on Tuesday and the reservoir will be operational on Wednesday. 

“Customers in high-lying areas are affected by low pressure or no water. Stationary tankers are being filled at critical sites.” 

These are: 

  • corner Main and 1st Avenue (Melville Shell garage); and 
  • corner 7th Street and 3rd Ave (Melville Restaurant).

– TimesLIVE

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