NATIONAL NEWS - Eskom, which is R450 billion in the red and is owed R36.5 billion by state entities and individual users, is clamping down on bad payers, with chronic patients in the North West left in a lurch when the utility disconnected power to a clinic due to non-payment.
Residents said the clinic was closed as it could not operate without power, which has put lives at risk as patients on chronic treatment, including TB, HIV and diabetes, were defaulting on treatment.
Buti Dube, a chronic patient at Mmakaunyane clinic, has not taken his medication for two weeks and is worried about his health.
“I have been taking medication for HIV for almost 10 years now and I have not defaulted for this before,” the 50-year-old father said yesterday. “I am worried that this will have a severe impact on my health.”
According to Shangy Mbekwa, a PR councillor in the Moretele local municipality, electricity was disconnected on 17 August and the clinic has not operated since.
“I was called by patients and staff but when I arrived Eskom technicians had already disconnected power and left. I called all relevant departments but all has been in vain and no one bothers to return my calls,” he said.
Mbekwa said the challenge was that the clinic used a borehole as there was no bulk water supply in the area and medication that was supposed to be stored in refrigerators was compromised. “It is a desperate situation. Poor, innocent people now have to suffer because someone failed to do their job. We need urgent attention to resolve the situation,” he said.
North West department of health spokesperson Tebogo Lekhethwane said power was disconnected for an outstanding electricity debt of R33 514.55 but said it was not true that the clinic was closed.
“Mmakaunyane clinic is rendering five days, eight hours services, and services were not disrupted. Mobile service was dispatched to the clinic today (on Tuesday) just in case there is a disruption. The facility has back up water,” he said.
Lekhethwane said there was a delay in the payments, suggesting that Eskom delayed sending invoices . He said they have resolved to physically collect invoices from Eskom to cut the delays.
“Eskom required remittance order to reconnect as proof of payment and the same was sent through (on Monday). Mmakaunyane was the only facility affected,” he said He added the overdue amount was for July and that they will develop a turnaround strategy on management of contractual obligations as well as standard procedure on payment of contracts.