THE South Africa Medical Association (Sama) has expressed its frustration at the current situation at Themba Hospital in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, which as been without water since January 4 2013.

Situated 15km from Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium — which is hosting games for the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament — the situation at the hospital is a big embarrassment for the city.

Dr Phophi Ramathuba, chairperson for public sector doctors at Sama said the hospital could not function if disaster were to strike.

"Doctors have had to cut all elective surgeries and are now focusing on emergencies only using tanks of water that have been sent by the provincial department of health.

"But these tanks are not enough to run the hospital on. How can the government let its doctors work in such conditions?" she said.

The association said the MEC for Health and Social Development Dr Clifford Mkasi had visited the hospital to assess its readiness as a disaster facility. The MEC was told of the situation and had not contacted the hospital since.

Ronnie Masilela, spokesman for the Mpumalanga Health and Social Development said the water outage was caused by the recent heavy rains.

"Upon noticing that there was a problem with water, the department immediately provided water tanks to keep the hospital running. This was resolved last week already. Water is restored in the area and things are back to normal," he said.

But Dr Ramathuba disputes the department claims.

"All the department has done is send us tanks of water which have helped the situation but the true water supply isn’t back. Each year, the rains always cause the same problem but the department has failed to help us make a contingency plan.

"Memorandums have been written to both the MEC and head of department about this problem but to date neither has responded. We are tired of pleading for their patience when we know nothing is forthcoming," she said.