Published On: Fri, Dec 18th, 2015

Health: Ghana power woes present vicious cycle

Ghana Bureau Chief
ACCRA, (CAJ News) – THE ongoing power crisis is posing an even larger health disaster it is not certain if Ghana would be able to deal with.

While most of the concern raised has been of manufacturing and mining companies suffering the incessant power shortages in Ghana, the country’s health sector is equally bearing the brunt.

At some facilities, surgical operations have been indefinitely postponed and ventilators and incubators have become obsolete.

Blood and related products are expiring earlier while critical diagnostic tests cannot be done.

Dr Kojo Nimako, a private medical practitioner with an interest in public health, lamented diabetics on refrigerated insulin were at risk.

“They may be injecting drugs rendered impotent by the protracted power outages, Nimako said.

Pharmacist Diana Lamptey told the CAJ News Africa that all drugs that needed refrigeration had become hazardous.

The cycle is vicious.

Domestic accidents are on the increase.

Children sustaining severe burns from lit candles, couples dying unpardonable deaths from generators smoke inhalation, houses burning to the ground from erratic power-linked infernos.

People who have lost their jobs are frustrated- these people are crowding the hospitals with physical manifestations of their psychological stress.

Some usually come in depressed, some with suicidal ideation, a clinical psychologist said.

“Our healthcare system is gradually being stretched to its elastic limit. We are all aware that the definitive solution to this crisis is increasing our generation mix and we leave that to the leaders of our dear nation,current and future, to workout,” Nimako lamented.

A three-year long erratic supply, while endangering the lives of millions seeking such services, has pushed the cost of operating a health facility spiralling up.

“The effect of the ongoing power crisis on the health sector is two- pronged; it is stifling the business of health delivery, while at the same time increasing the demand for health care services,” said Dr Kojo
Nimako, a private medical practitioner with an interest in public health, aptly portrayed the sector.

He said clinics and small hospitals were spending about $1 000 a week on fuel to power their generators while bigger facilities were spending significantly.

“Expensive reagents for laboratory work are going waste due to the power outages. The cold-chain for certain drugs is becoming virtually impossible to maintain. But while health facilities are fighting
tirelessly to stay in business, a more sinister problem is brewing; a health crisis looms,” he said.

Nimako pointed out that food preservation was becoming difficult due to the erratic power supply as cold stores were refreezing rotten fish and restaurateurs serving near-putrefied coleslaw.

“The result is an upsurge in the number of cases of diarrheal diseases in our hospitals. Our national immunization programme is at risk of failure. Just one protracted power crisis and an entire batch of vaccines are destroyed,” the health expert said.

A survey carried out as some public hospitals in the Accra metropolis painted a bleak picture.

The Ridge Government Hospital, where a new 640-bed facility is constructed, is among facilities reeling under the effects of the crisis.

Although the hospital has a standby plant to provide power during power cuts, CAJ News Africa gathered that for months management have not been able to fuel it.

Upon the visit, the whole facility resembled in darkness, save for the VIP Ward, had light. The majority on admission had no option but to contend with darkness.

Worryingly, nurses were seen using candlelight and mobile torchlights to administer medication to patients, with instructions from doctors.

“The situation is getting out of hand. If the government does not act immediately about the current energy crisis lives will be lost needlessly,” said a nurse.

Similarly at the country’s premier hospital-Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, the biggest referral hospital in West Africa, the compound was a scene of darkness.

Elsewhere, managers of the Effia Nkwanta Regional hospital in Sekondi, hinted that they might be forced to charge additional fees to support daily operations facility if the current power crisis was not resolved.

Officials said the delays in payment of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) levy, coupled with a weekly fuel demand of over GHC10 000 (US$2 584) for their generators was negatively affecting their finances.

“We are still talking with our regional director. We are hoping that this ‘dumsor’ (power outage) will soon be resolved and we will not have to come to charging extra fees.

“There are threats of disconnection from the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) which if these threats are implemented then of course we will have to find other means of recovery the money otherwise there is no way we can pay them vis-à-vis the current delay in reimbursement of National Health
Insurance,” Senior Medical Director at the hospital, Dr Paul Ntodi, said.

Ntodi revealed ECG had served that the hospital a disconnection notice over a GHC1 million debt.

The hospital needs GHC2 400 daily to fuel its 500 KVA generator.

Ntodi said vital medical equipment have broken down affecting the quality of healthcare.

“Power boards for male wards, air conditioners and refrigerators have broken down as a result of the

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