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Health experts have confirmed that the impact of load shedding on South African hospitals is turning fatal. Revelations published by the Bhekisisa journal recall a case from earlier this year, where Eskom’s rolling blackouts were directly linked to the death of a patient.

Did load shedding kill a patient in a Joburg hospital?

An anonymous doctor got in touch with the senior health analysts, sharing a tragic story under a pseudonym. According to his testimony, load shedding caused a desperate delay in treating a severely-injured patient – who lost his opportunity for immediate and critical care.

  • In July 2022, a patient in his twenties was rushed to the trauma unit at Charlotte Maxeke, after falling from a great height.
  • Medics were desperately trying to determine if he was medically brain dead, only to discover signs of life. Then load shedding hit.
  • After seeing the man’s pupils respond to torchlight, they rushed to get him in the CT scanner ASAP. But it was n longer working.
  • Unable to operate on generator power, a vital piece of equipment was made redundant, while a young patient’s life remained in the balance.
  • The power stayed off for three hours. The patient was now unresponsive, and the delayed scan revealed a severe bleed on the brain.
  • A window of opportunity to save the man’s life had been lost, due to load shedding. He was eventually declared brain-dead.
hospital load shedding
The horrors of hospital load shedding have been laid bare – Photo: Unsplash

Deadly delay: Wait for CT scanner proved fatal

The medical worker, who shared this horror story under the name of David Kerr, detailed how he was ‘heartbroken’ upon realising the patient could not be saved. The three-hour load shedding schedule ended up denying essential treatment to a badly injured member of the public:

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“We needed to act fast: This patient’s situation was so urgent that he would likely be pushed to the front of the queue for a CT scan. We all really wanted to help him, but there was just nothing we could do, it was heartbreaking. All we could then do was carry on with the day.” | ‘David Kerr’

Load shedding death in hospital ‘blamed on the state’

In summarising the events of this fateful day, Bhekisisa paraphrased some of Kerr’s submissions. One passage in particular sends shivers down the spine. With this death essentially being caused by a state failure, the chance of securing any accountability vanished instantly:

“The trauma specialist in charge was furious. Until he heard it was down to load shedding. If it had been the doctors’ mistake that delayed treatment for the dying man, it would have been a serious offence. The fact that it was a government failure meant the incident was uncontroversial.”

Bhekisisa journal

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