How poor electricity adds to patients’ pains in hospitals
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