Those behind the theft of copper pipes at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto this week had a clear intention of sabotaging the supply of oxygen at the ICU of Africa’s biggest hospital.
This is according to CEO Nkele Lesia, who was addressing the media outside the hospital yesterday.
Copper theft at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is sabotage
“Whoever stole that pipe knew exactly that is was an oxygen pipe and it was going to ICU. There were many other pipes in that area but they chose that one,” she said.
Lesia made the remarks alongside Gauteng MEC for human settlements and infrastructure development Lebogang Maile, who visited the hospital after a copper pipe supplying water to two of the hospital’s theatres and the pipe supplying oxygen to the ICU was cut earlier this week.
Lesia described the act as selfish as a lot of patients could have lost their lives had it not been for staff who acted swiftly. “All those patients could have perished. They could have stolen metal from anywhere else but not in that building.”
Maile said, based on their preliminary assessment, this act was a deliberate act of sabotage.
“We do not have anything concrete as yet but that is our view,” he said.
“Where the pipes were stolen, it is not everyone who knows. You must be working in the hospital to know their access and have their access,” said Maile.
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Lesia could also not rule out the possibility of the incident being an inside job. “If it is collusion from anyone of us, then clearly that person does not share the same values with us,” she said
“This is a matter of life and death. It is very concerning that someone working in a hospital can have such devious thoughts they can sabotage services to this extent.”
Cost of copper theft
Asked about the cost of the price of the stolen pipes, Maile said they were not aware of the value.
“We don’t know but it is not the millions [of rands] range. I have asked for them to give me the report today on the financial implications,” he said.
Maile added that they had to put in interim measures to make sure that patients get oxygen.
“The pipe for oxygen is smaller, it’s not the same diameter size because the suppliers are closed. They have made a plan to make sure patients are not affected. It will be replaced when we get the proper size in January.”
When Saturday Citizen visited the hospital yesterday, all vehicles exiting the premises were subjected to additional security checks, including searching under the seats.
Maile said they still needed more security resources.
“The issue of security is ongoing and the head of security has updated us that every three years they do an assessment but, of course, there are resources needed to beef up security.”
Maile added that the hospital has already opened a case with the police.
“If we find that any of our officials is implicated, we will act decisively and mercilessly.”