Hospital gets wiser with water

False Bay Hospital is working towards the installation of a borehole to help cope with potential water shortages.

Three days without water at False Bay Hospital last year emphasised the importance of having a back-up plan should the taps run dry – particularly as the current drought tightens its grip on the city and other parts of the Western Cape.

Now hospital representatives and the False Bay Hospital Facility Board are taking action to prevent another water crisis.

Last year a burst water pipe left staff and hundreds of patients without water for three days. While the City supplied the hospital with drinking water, toilet cisterns had to be filled with buckets of water when they needed to be flushed.

The hospital now has a two-phase plan which it will implement, the first phase involving the sinking of a borehole to supplement the hospital’s current water supply system.

“This first phase of the project is quite urgent. Our primary goal is to ensure that the patients have water.

“For three days last year we did not have water. We used buckets to flush the toilets, it was unpleasant for patients” said Dr Wendy Waddington, a gynaecologist and obstetrician at False Bay Hospital.

Phase one will cost the hospital R140 000, and the False Bay Hospital Association will help raise the required funds by reaching out to donors to cover the deposit required to secure a borehole to be sunk in September.

“The water usage at the hospital is of great concern to us. The company will only put us on the waiting list if we get a deposit of R70 000. Then we can be scheduled to have the borehole dug in September. A hospital without water would be a major disaster. It would run to a standstill,” said False Bay Hospital Facility Board chairman Des Read.

“The borehole will be sunk 50 meters down to pump water into the existing system so that when the hospital runs out of water, it will run into the access water.

“Phase 2 will see us try and harvest water from the roof of the hospital,” said Mr Read. Mr Read has been assisting the hospital through the False Bay Hospital Association, an NGO, since 1980 to provide the staff with necessities usually not funded, such as a recreational braai area for staff, cookies and tea each day for out-patients and medical equipment. He hopes that the water project will be the legacy project for the association.

When asked whether the sinking of a borehole was something the department of health might fund, Zimkitha Mquteni, the spokesperson for Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, said no formal application for project funding had been received. The department, however, welcomed the initiative, she said.

“The existing water towers at the hospital were recently upgraded and the False Bay Hospital Board is initiating further sustainability methods to conserve water. This environmentally-friendly initiative is welcomed,” she said.

“From a health perspective, it is a useful project, as it is an investment into a system that provides a backup to the short-term capacity of the water tower. Should such an application ever be received, it would have been tabled with the engineering unit for consideration. However with the massive maintenance needs of many of our facilities, it is difficult to assess whether this would be part of Department of Health’s mandate,” said Ms Mquteni.

If you would like more information about the project or make a donation, you can contact Des Read on 076 765 3364, Sarie Naude on 082 451 8448 or email wendy.waddington@westerncape.gov.za