How poor elec­tric­ity adds to pa­tients’ pains in hos­pi­tals

Daily Trust - - HEALTH - By Si­mon Echewo­fun Sun­day

As the sit­u­a­tion of elec­tric­ity sup­ply in the coun­try wors­ened in the last two months, it also af­fected sev­eral hos­pi­tals and pa­tients.

Fully equipped hos­pi­tals re­quire sta­ble elec­tric­ity sup­ply to op­er­ate their non-stop ma­chines such as X-ray and scan­ning fa­cil­i­ties, life-sav­ing ma­chines, oxy­gen masks and the theatre where emer­gency and un­sched­uled surg­eries are per­formed.

The morgue is an­other key sec­tion that re­quires con­stant power for the freez­ers; and the store room.

Elec­tric­ity is also re­quired for light­ing, heat man­age­ment (cool­ing and heat­ing), elec­tronic di­ag­nos­tic tools, med­i­cal equip­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, com­put­ing and to re­frig­er­ate med­i­cal sup­plies and vac­cines. With­out these in­dis­pens­able tools and con­sum­ables, the fight against HIV, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and malaria can­not be won in sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa.

A health ser­vice provider, Dr. Yemi Okun, said the poor elec­tric­ity sit­u­a­tion in many hos­pi­tals in Nige­ria has fos­tered the thriv­ing of in­ter­me­di­ary agen­cies that do an­cil­lary ser­vices for many hos­pi­tals on re­fer­rals and are mak­ing a huge for­tune.

He said some of these agen­cies are key part­ners with the Fed­eral Min­istry of Health to pre­serve vac­cines and drugs that could per­ish if not prop­erly re­frig­er­ated.

Our re­porter who vis­ited some hos­pi­tals to as­sess their power sup­ply sit­u­a­tion dis­cov­ered that most of those vis­ited had their power gen­er­a­tors run­ning even in day time due to power out­age.

Mrs Rose Adah was at the Med­i­cal Cen­tre, Mararaba Gu­ruku in Nasarawa State for one of her rou­tine ma­ter­nity vis­its when she was told to do an ur­gent scan.

“I was di­rected to an­other lab­o­ra­tory, about seven kilo­me­tres away from such a big hos­pi­tal near Abuja,” she said.

She said it was brisk busi­ness for the lab­o­ra­tory as every­one from the hos­pi­tal was re­ferred there. Some ac­ci­dent vic­tims brought to the hos­pi­tal were sta­bilised and asked to do their X-rays and other scan­ning needs out­side the hos­pi­tal. This most times in­volves com­mut­ing and wast­ing pre­cious hours on sim­ple di­ag­nos­tic ac­tiv­i­ties.

Asked why such things hap­pen when the hos­pi­tal is meant to be fully equipped, a nurse who craved anonymity said it was not for lack of equip­ment but the dis­mal power sup­ply sit­u­a­tion.

She said: “The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) through its in­ter­ven­tion con­trib­uted some of those scan­ning and test­ing equip­ment but we only use the ones that do not re­quire much power.”

An­other med­i­cal of­fi­cial said de­spite the ded­i­cated power con­nec­tion the hos­pi­tal has, elec­tric­ity sup­ply in the place was not al­ways con­stant.

He said the hos­pi­tal en­joyed a max­i­mum of 10 hours on good days and of­ten none on other days.

The Na­tional Hos­pi­tal Abuja is an­other place where elec­tric­ity sup­ply is ex­pected to be con­stant be­ing a ter­tiary health in­sti­tu­tion and close to the seat of govern­ment, how­ever, pa­tients have been suf­fer­ing from poor or de­layed treat­ment due to power out­ages.

The Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA), Mr Yukiya Amano, was told dur­ing his re­cent visit to the hos­pi­tal, that in spite of the fact that it is one of the two hos­pi­tals in Nige­ria that has a ra­dio­ther­apy cen­tre for treat­ing can­cer, (the other one is Univer­sity Col­lege Hos­pi­tal, Ibadan) power sup­ply has been a chal­lenge to the con­tin­u­ous op­er­a­tion of the ma­chines.

The ma­chines re­quire con­stant elec­tric­ity, be­yond the al­ter­na­tive gen­er­at­ing plants, to utilise nu­clear tech­nol­ogy in the treat­ment of pa­tients, said the Di­rec­tor, Clin­i­cal Ser­vices, Dr. Oluseyi Oniyangi, who spoke on be­half of Dr Ja­faru Mo­moh, the Chief Med­i­cal Di­rec­tor (CMD) of the hos­pi­tal. The Many hos­pi­tals are em­brac­ing re­new­able en­ergy tech­nol­ogy to ad­dress the chal­lenge of power out­age.

Staff of the Med­i­cal Cen­tre, Mararaba Gu­ruku, Nasarawa State, said they spent a lot to pro­vide so­lar light­ing for the wards, the theatre and of­fices, adding that it has helped them to op­er­ate with ease at night.

About 28 months ago, for­mer Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan com­mis­sioned the Op­er­a­tion Light-up Ru­ral Nige­ria (OLRN) so­lar projects in three com­mu­ni­ties in the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory (FCT). The projects con­sist of so­lar street lights and so­lar pan­els fit­ted to over 1,000 house­holds in Du­rumi, Waru and Shape.

A fas­ci­nat­ing thing about this is the ded­i­cated so­lar con­nec­tion to the Pri­mary Health Care (PHC) cen­tre in Du­rumi. The clinic has been em­pow­ered to pro­vide

so­lar power op­tion

ba­sic light­ing, fan and other low en­ergy de­mand­ing ser­vices. Its drug stor­age part too is ca­pa­ble with the so­lar-pow­ered freezer do­nated to it, the com­mu­nity leader, Jarumi Shak­para, said.

Dur­ing a visit to the clinic, our re­porter ob­served that the so­lar sys­tem for the clinic has been re­in­forced by in­stalling larger pan­els to de­liver more power.

A health at­ten­dant, Musa Ganiyu, said the test run ear­lier proved that so­lar en­ergy works to im­prove hos­pi­tals hence the clinic has to con­nect more so­lar to en­sure that crit­i­cal drugs and vac­cines are well pre­served by so­lar pow­ered re­frig­er­a­tors to boost the qual­ity of health­care de­liv­ery in the com­mu­nity.

In Fe­bru­ary this year, the Chief Med­i­cal Di­rec­tor at Ek­iti State Univer­sity Teach­ing Hos­pi­tal (EKSUTH), Dr. Ko­la­wole Ogundipe said the fa­cil­ity would soon start en­joy­ing 24-hour elec­tric­ity, adding that there is a project on so­lar power plant and med­i­cal gas plant which would soon be ready.

He said the two projects would help re­duce over­head costs on elec­tric­ity while im­prov­ing on the up­grade of the Ra­di­ol­ogy Cen­tre to pro­vide CT scan and en­doscopy.

The United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) on its web­site said most ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties have lim­ited ac­cess to en­ergy and this re­al­ity ad­versely im­pacts the pro­vi­sion of health­care ser­vices in Nige­ria.

Re­cently, the agency picked Uke Com­mu­nity in Karu Lo­cal Govern­ment Area of Nasarawa State, from among the many com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by the en­ergy cri­sis. The com­mu­nity, it said, had a pop­u­la­tion of 10,000 de­pend­ing on a sin­gle pub­lic cot­tage hos­pi­tal.

It said its in­ter­ven­tion has helped with the in­stal­la­tion of a 1.5Kwa so­lar pho­to­voltaic (PV) sys­tems, with about 7Kwh bat­tery bank in­stalled in the hos­pi­tal. The re­sult is that pa­tients who need surgery are now re­ceiv­ing at­ten­tion. Over 50 pa­tients are at­tended to daily and care is pro­vided dur­ing the night due to im­proved light­ing.

“Be­fore, we were not do­ing surgery at all, but since about a month now, we have done close to 15 surg­eries,” Dr. Makpa Habu Has­san, one of the doc­tors at the hos­pi­tal was re­cently quoted by the agency.

Out­age blamed on poor grid

Find­ings by Daily Trust re­veal that most of the hos­pi­tals are di­rectly con­nected to the Abuja Elec­tric­ity Dis­tri­bu­tion Com­pany (AEDC) with its fran­chise area in Kogi, Abuja, Nasarawa and Niger states.

An of­fi­cial of the Dis­tri­bu­tion Com­pany (Disco) said the Na­tional Hos­pi­tal, Abuja, was on a ded­i­cated line, mean­ing that it is served first be­fore other res­i­dences and house­holds in its cov­er­age.

How­ever, the of­fi­cial added that this is hardly made pub­lic as other cus­tomers felt it is un­fair to have some fa­cil­i­ties on ded­i­cated lines while oth­ers were not and still paid the same bill.

The of­fi­cial said key fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing those of health­care were on their ‘spe­cial at­ten­tion’ list and were at­tended to promptly.

Giv­ing rea­sons for the dip in power sup­ply, the spokesman, Ahmed Sheka­rau, said the al­lo­ca­tion to the Disco dropped sig­nif­i­cantly due to the na­tion­wide drop in power gen­er­a­tion to be­low 3,000 megawatts (mw) pre­vi­ously and less than 2,000mw re­cently.

“We have been re­ceiv­ing about 140mw which is far less than our base­line of 450mw. This has been a ma­jor chal­lenge and a lot of our cus­tomers would have no­ticed se­ries of dis­rup­tion,” he said.

The so­lar pow­ered ru­ral clinic at Du­rumi com­mu­nity, Abuja

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