Striking workers are demanding a 15% wage increase
A doctor in South Africa says strikes by municipal workers have left his hospital without adequate water.
Dr Dominic Waddington works in Saint Apollinaris Hospital in Centocow, KwaZulu-Natal.
The British medic says he can't perform x-rays to diagnose tuberculosis, or even wash his hands properly.
Around 150,000 workers in South Africa are on strike, demanding a 15% pay rise.
As soon as the strike began, our water supply went off.
It has been cut off throughout the entire municipality.
We are not able to perform many essential laboratory tests.
We are not able to wash our hands properly.
And we are not able to carry out X-rays, as water is needed for processing the films.
There are patients who I think have probably got tuberculosis. And I can't do an X-ray test.
At the moment there is enough water to flush the toilets... but that may not last
Dr Dominic Waddington,
So they are having their diagnosis delayed.
And that increases the likelihood of their passing TB on to their family and others.
We also need X-rays for broken bones, for pneumonia and broken skulls, and sometimes X-rays for the abdomen.
I've no idea how big the backlog is - we don't keep track of how many patients have missed out.
We have got some water in a tanker, so we have enough for the operating theatre, for emergencies.
If the strike goes on, the hospital will just have to keep focusing on emergency cases and keep doing our best to manage the rest.
But we're relying on a tank of water.
At the moment, there is sufficient stored water to allow flushing of the toilets. But that may not last indefinitely.
And the combination of poor hand hygiene and inadequate sewage has the potential to spread gastrointestinal (and other) infections throughout the hospital.
I don't know how the cleaning staff are managing.
We are in a very rural area.
It's unfair on the locals to come all the way to the hospital only to get no treatment
Dr Dominic Waddington,
People travel a long way to come to the hospital. And they have to use a large proportion of their income.
It's really unfair on the locals to come all the way to the hospital only to get no treatment.
We can't send a message out saying "don't come" because then people with pneumonia would miss out on their antibiotics and they might die.
But certainly the hospital is much quieter today - about one third of the attendance it would normally be.
So I presume people must know that the hospital doesn't have an adequate supply. The water's been cut off throughout the surrounding community.
I'm told by my patients that their stand pipes are also cut off. So I presume some of them are now using water that is potentially harmful.
But my patients tolerate all this extraordinarily well. They don't complain.
And they're used to this because it happens all the time.
Their healthcare expectations are incredibly low.
Needless to say I don't support the strike.
However, I have greater sympathy for the relatively poorly paid municipal workers than I had for the South African doctors, who went on strike a few weeks ago.