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UFS outreach targets kids with heart defects



Staff Reporter

More than 40 babies in South Africa’s rural areas die every year as a result of an undiagnosed heart lesion or defect yet most of the deaths could be avoided, a paediatric heart specialist said.

According to the principal specialist in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), Professor Stephen Brown, up to 85 percent of these heart conditions could be cured if properly diagnosed.

“Everyone assumes that they have respiratory problems when they actually have critical congenital heart disease – up to 85 percent of which is curable,” says Brown, who heads the paediatric cardiology division at the university.

To counter the problem, a team of paediatric heart specialists has been travelling to rural areas across the province since 2016 in a bid to diagnose heart defects in babies early and treat them.

“We initiated an outreach programme due to the fact that some patients found it difficult to get transport to our central hospital,” says Brown.

“Since the Free State is considered rural, there are long distances to travel.

“Our concept was that we should take the service to grass-roots level to make it more convenient for the parents and caretakers.”

UFS has partnered with the Mother and Child Academic Hospital (MACAH) Foundation and the Discovery Fund to help curb the deaths of children due to congenital heart disease and make the services more accessible to rural communities.

Brown says early detection of congenital heart disease makes a big difference because the first 1 000 days in a child’s life are very important.

“We see 170-250 patients on an annual basis,” he said.

“The service is obviously confined to secondary hospitals, and we started doing the Mofumahadi Manapo Mopeli Hospital in Qwaqwa and the Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom.

“It has since expanded to the Dihlabeng Regional Hospital in Bethlehem and Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein.

“Since initiation in 2020, Pelonomi has seen on average 40 children per month receiving a heart sonar.

“COVID-19 has however had a major impact on our work.”

MACAH Foundation chairman Professor André Venter emphasised that the first 1 000 days in any child’s life are key to its health.

“We should do everything in our power to ensure that this 1 000-day journey is as optimal for each child, including conception, pregnancy, birth and health during the first two years of life,” said Venter.

RURAL OUTREACH . . . UFS paediatric specialist Professor Stephen Brown working with a team to take life-saving medical care to young patients in the Free State



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Parts of Free State may not have power for up to three weeks



PROLONGED BLACKOUT LOOMS . . . Eskom says consumers in some parts of the Free State may not have electricity for up to three weeks

Eskom has warned consumers in the south-eastern Free State that they may not have electricity for up to three weeks due to voltage constraints on the network feeding the Melkspruit Substation.

The power failure resulted in electricity users in Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield as well as those fed directly by Eskom on the RVZ and RVS 22 kV lines experiencing outages over the past weekend.

Eskom’s spokesperson in the Free State, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the problem may persist until major work on a line from the Northern Cape is completed.

“The voltage constraint on the network will persist until construction of structures on the Ruigtevallei-Valleydora 132 kV line in the Northern Cape is completed,” said Van Rensburg as she urged consumers to remain patient while the supply challenge is addressed.

“Free State teams are currently assisting to speed up the process. It is however expected that work will take two to three weeks to complete.”

“In the meantime, electricity users are urged to use electricity sparingly, especially during the morning and evening peak hours, to prevent trips,” she added.

South Africa has been experiencing rolling blackouts in recent weeks due to what Eskom has described a “continued shortage of generation capacity”.

On Sunday, the national power utility said in a separate statement it had about 3 028 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 14 992 megawatts of capacity were unavailable due to breakdowns.

While the loadshedding is meant to ease pressure on the national grid and avoid a total collapse of the system, the practice has reportedly caused damage on some lines when power is switched back on.

Eskom has always said loadshedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid and promised to limit the implementation of loadshedding to the evening peak in order to limit the impact of the capacity shortages on the public. – Staff Reporter

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier



MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall



DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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