AN acute water crisis is threatening operations at Mpilo Central Hospital and United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) which are the city’s major public hospitals as they are going for several days without running water.
Last month, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) introduced a water shedding programme which it has been periodically reviewing but has been failing to adhere to.
This has seen the hospitals and municipal clinics going for days without water thereby adversely affecting operations.
The water shedding is also affecting residents as some suburbs are receiving water for less than 12 hours per week while a few others are going for more than a week without water.
The biting water crisis has also seen an increase in diarrhoea cases being recorded in the city.
The non-availability of running water at hospitals and clinics is compromising service delivery at these health institutions.
When a Chronicle news crew visited UBH yesterday at about 1PM, a BCC water bowser was delivering water to the hospital.
A city council bowser delivers water to the United Bulawayo Hospitals yesterday
A woman who was admitted to Lady Rodwell Maternity Hospital who declined to be named said the situation was very desperate.
“Can you imagine the maternity wing without water. The situation was very dire for the past two days and water supplies were only restored last night. Women were forced to collect water from tanks within the hospital. The toilets didn’t have water and we feared an outbreak of water-borne diseases” she said.
The woman said her husband had to bring water from home last night before supplies were restored.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube said she received a call from UBH over the water cuts.
She said Government was concerned about the impact of the water crisis on health delivery services.
“I did have a conversation with the Town Clerk (Mr Christopher Dube) two weeks ago after we received a call from UBH about the water crisis. He said ideally health institutions are exempt from the water shedding but whenever they have challenges with water, they should swiftly contact his office. As Government we would prefer to have health institutions exempt from water shedding,” said Minister Ncube.
She said theft of copper cables was worsening Bulawayo’s water crisis.
UBH acting chief executive officer Dr Narcisius Dzvanga could not be reached for comment.
In an interview, acting Mpilo Central Hospital clinical director Dr Francis Chiwora said the situation at the biggest referral hospital was dire as shortage of water could result in the spread of diseases.
The hospital serves patients from Bulawayo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands and Masvingo.
“We didn’t have water since the beginning of the week but today most departments have water. It really affected us. Water is very important for health institutions because when we are treating patients and whatever we are doing we need to wash hands with running water,” said Dr Chiwora.
“The health workers and patients need running water for washing. When patients have various ailments or operations, running water is very critical. It’s virtually impossible to run a health institution without water. It’s, so crucial otherwise without running water infections spread quickly.”
He said the hospital has been using water from water bowsers.
Dr Chiwora said in the past some services have been shut down because of the water crisis.
“We had some reservoirs but it has been difficult to use water from reservoirs across the hospital. So, people may be forced to use buckets to carry water from one place to another which is not the best way and certain services within the hospital may not be offered,” said Dr Chiwora.
He said hospitals should be exempt from water shedding and power cuts.
“They should always have water. Water and electricity are very important in the institution and there should not be water shedding or power cuts,” he said.
An official in the Ministry of Health and Child Care said while Government has raised the issue of exempting health institutions from water shedding, council has said at times it is impossible to continue supplying water during water shedding.
“The only sustainable solution is to have solar powered boreholes for health institutions. This water crisis is not just affecting major hospitals but council run clinics as well,” said the official.
BCC corporate communications manager Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said hospitals are exempt from water shedding.
She said Mpilo Central Hospital experienced water cuts following a pipe burst that occurred near Amakhosi Township Square premises.
“The issue with UBH is that they have a problem with their pumping system. Their water pump is situated on higher ground and they have challenges pumping water,” she said.
Mrs Mpofu however said it was difficult to exempt municipal clinics from water shedding as they use the same water pipes supplying residents.
She said council was using bowsers to supply water to clinics during water shedding periods.