Eskom Load Shedding: Now blackouts hamper Covid-19 vaccine centres

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Eskom load shedding and the poor state of municipal facilities have been identified by the Democratic Alliance (DA) as two of the biggest challenges to the roll-out of government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health Dr Rishigen Viranna said the findings about the impact of Eskom load shedding come after a two-day oversight inspection by the province’s Health portfolio committee in the Amajuba and uThukela health districts.

“The DA has some major concerns around the findings within Estcourt, Loskop and Dannhauser in particular, where the failure by local municipalities to maintain their own properties has been flagged as one of the biggest impediments to the speedy rollout of the vaccine,” he said.

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He said that in Loskop the committee found that the community hall which was supposed to have been used as a vaccination site was in such a poor state that it could not be used. 

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“The hall, which was visited by the portfolio committee, has been vandalised and there is also no proper electricity supply. Instead, a local NGO had to step in and offer their premises as a venue. This initially delayed the vaccine roll-out in the area however it quickly recovered and by the afternoon vaccinations were running smoothly,” he said.

He said at Dannhauser Community Health Clinic (CHC), the committee found the vaccination roll-out severely affected by loadshedding. 

Eskom load shedding hits clinic

“While the clinic does have a generator, the vaccination area was not connected to it. This resulted in at least a 4 hour delay despite many elderly people having arrived at 7am to receive their vaccine,” he said.

“No electricity supply and/or load shedding also means that Department of Health (DoH) staff based at vaccination sites must use a manual process. Not only is this extremely time-consuming but staff also do not have proper training for this. This is ultimately severely impacting the number of people that are able to be vaccinated each day,” Viranna added.

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Prior to the vaccination drive, co-ordinators of the programme – who are based at the Estcourt Hospital – met with the Inkosi Langalibalele Council to discuss the different options for sites. Their subsequent inspections of the facilities saw them go back to council to report their concern over the dire state of  buildings. According to them, the council’s response was simply that there is no money to fix the problems, Viranna said.

“The findings are an indictment against KZN CoGTA MEC, Sipho Hlomuka and his Department. The many years of simply ignoring basic maintenance and failing to improve the lives of so many communities has now come back to bite them.” Viranna said.

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He added that the majority of complaints regarding the vaccination programme were from the more populated areas of eThekwini and Umgungundlovu. 

“Regrettably, these two municipalities did not form part of this weeks’ oversights. We will now be pushing for further inspections by the committee in these areas as a matter of urgency. As our province approaches its third wave, the greatest tool we have to protect the most vulnerable, our elderly, is the vaccine,” he said.

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