Some medical experts say load shedding is proving to be fatal for patients who are on oxygen at home, while hospitals are also under pressure as the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic looms.
This week, Eskom implemented stage two load shedding which it says will continue until Friday night.
The power utility says the load shedding is due to the breakdown of generating units at the Majuba and Arnot power stations.
Pulmonologist professor Guy Richards, says most patients do not have a backup power supply to run their oxygen machines during load shedding.
He says it’s vital for those with low oxygen levels to ensure that their machines stay powered to prevent their condition from worsening and also to prevent death.
Video: Unpacking Eskom’s latest developments
Power outages affect emphysema patient
Santosh Singh, who lives with his ill aunt, shares their challenges. She suffers from emphysema. He says power outages are extremely difficult to deal with.
“So, I think it’s really hard currently because I have a family member that I live with and she is on oxygen and she needs to be on oxygen for a minimum of 12 hours a day. So every 12 hours, basically, and it needs to be connected to electricity all the time,” says Singh.
He says the family fears that load shedding could have a detrimental effect on his aunt’s wellbeing, as they can’t afford a rechargeable oxygen machine.
“The problem comes in if load shedding happens to be where in that 2 hours she is supposed to be on oxygen and she can’t be on oxygen. The risk of that is, I don’t know if I can actually make it to the hospital on time, or what to do in that situation if that point is a vital time for her oxygen and that machine to be operating. Currently, we don’t have the funds to invest in a rechargeable machine as those machines are very expensive,” says Singh.
With winter in full swing, Eskom says it cannot rule out the possibility of further power disruptions. This follows a breakdown of generation units at the Majuba and Arnot power stations.
Eskom Spokesperson, Sikhonathi Mantshantsha, says the system remains vulnerable and the utility has already used up much of its reserves.
“Breakdowns currently total 13 600 megawatts while another 1300 is out on planned maintenance. Our teams are working hard to return these generation units back to service as soon as possible. As well as to replenish the emergency reserves. We would like to appeal to the public to reduce the usage of electricity in order to assist the country get through these constraints as soon as possible,” says Mantshantsha.