Phaahla wants alternative energy, exemptions of hospitals from power cuts sped up

Friday, March 3, 2023

Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, says he hopes the alternative energy supply and exemption of essential hospitals from load shedding will be sped up after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a National State of Disaster regarding the ongoing load shedding.

The Minister was speaking on Friday during a briefing chaired by the Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, to communicate the gazetted regulations, which give effect to the National State of Disaster on the impact of severe electricity supply constraints.

The National State of Disaster aims to enable government to quickly deal with the ongoing crippling power cuts.

In addition, Phaahla said his Director-General has communicated with Eskom’s leadership and has formed a joint working team which has identified 213 key health facilities - mainly hospitals - to be relieved from load shedding.

He said these health facilities provide key emergencies including operations and house intensive care units (ICUs).

“So, the 213 of such facilities are a priority, not that the rest of the more than 5 000 clinics, community health centres and hospitals are not important but these were essential.”

Of these, Phaahla said, 76 are currently shielded from load shedding.

This means the country has an outstanding 137 of the top priority hospitals that are still not exempted.

“Our team has been working together to look at expanding the number of facilities which can be exempted,” he announced, adding that the remaining facilities' cables are intertwined with community supply lines and businesses.

“They have to have a separate line installed so that they can then be exempted.”

The preliminary cost for the 45 hospitals under Eskom, according to Phaahla, came up to R300 million.

Meanwhile, he said government is still working with the provinces, districts, and municipalities on the cost plan for the remaining ones.

“We are looking forward with the declaration of disaster that this process can be speeded up because, at the current moment, our institutions are really struggling,” he admitted.

“The generators that are there in all our facilities, especially hospitals, are not meant to drive the supply of electricity for prolonged hours. They are just meant for when there is a trip in the grid and then they can keep essential services like theatres, ICU and other key services in the hospital running.”

The Health Minister told the media the department is working with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on an alternative energy supply to back up the generators at health facilities across the country.

“So, at this stage, our teams will be working under this process with Eskom and all the municipalities, which are electricity suppliers to speed up the process of acquiring all these alternative lines which can exempt many of our health facilities.” –