HARARE – Harare’s major referral hospitals are facing serious water shortages amid a cholera outbreak which has killed more than 31 people in the capital.
The Daily News can report that Harare Central Hospital spent the weekend without water, while Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals had to resort to drawing the resource from its boreholes and storage tanks.
At Harare Central Hospital, relatives were forced to carry water for patients’ basic needs over the weekend.
Nyasha Masuka, the hospital’s chief executive officer, confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that the institution has been grappling with water shortages as a result of water rationing adopted by the Harare City Council (HCC).
The city fathers have, however, denied rationing water, saying the crisis could be a result of a burst water pipe.
“The water shortages at Harare Hospital are real and it’s very scary given the cholera outbreak since we are the referral hospital for all these neighbourhoods where we have had the cholera outbreak and also (given that) every woman comes to deliver here because of our free services,” said Masuka.
The Harare Central Hospital boss described the water situation as chronic, saying it was unacceptable that such a huge institution could go for long hours without water.
Faced with the erratic water supplies, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals has since constructed its own reservoir and sunk boreholes so that the institution does not run dry.
The hospital now operates a water reservoir with the capacity to run for three days and boreholes.
“Council water rationing no longer affects us because we now have plan B,” said Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals’ head of public communications Linos Dhire, while urging council to prioritise hospitals because “we are talking about life, hospitals need water”.
Even though hospitals are among the sectors with the least amount of water use benchmarking, they are among the facility types with the highest water use intensity as measured in gallons per square foot.
Hotels rank as the heaviest users of water.
In hospitals, water is used to wash surgical tools and equipment; kitchen water consumption; laundry; heating; ventilation and air conditioning and creating a soothing environment for patients to have hydrotherapy.
Patients need water to drink, bath, hand wash and to flush toilets.
Harare Central Hospital has now drilled 10 boreholes in the hospital grounds and is in the process of laying pipes to connect the boreholes to the different departments.
“We also have a tender that has been running since November 2013 for building a reservoir and that has been going on and off because the contractor and Public Works have their own issues; sometimes some work is done, while at times some payments are not done. The reservoir was supposed to be commissioned in July but that hasn’t been done and we keep hearing stories between the contractor and Public Works,” said Masuka.
“We also asked council to issue us a supply line that is not connected to other neighbourhoods because this is an essential service…We have asked the council to warn us but they said they will bring water in bowsers if there is no water and each time we have not had water and asked them to bring it, they never brought us the water.
“So when there is no water, we have to buy it at 12 cents a litre from suppliers using money paid by patients which is supposed to go towards medicines and pay for other things because the service is not available from the city council,” Masuka said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, HCC’s corporate communications manager Michael Chideme denied that there was water rationing at Harare Central Hospital.
“If there is no water, it means there is no water. The hospital is supposed to have its own storage facilities to cater for crises.
“We do not ration water in that area; there are various problems which may arise such as water bursts,” said Chideme.
The Zimbabwe Medical Association is on record saying it is unhealthy and unhygienic for health institutions to spend even two hours without water.