By Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho, GHANA
A three-year long power crisis currently confronting Ghana has plunged the country’s health system into near chaos.
The country has been experiencing unprecedented power cuts for the past three years. This has led to the rationing of power in accordance with a timetable.
But the timetable is unreliable as the power does not come when it is expected, creating a situation where most service providers have to rely on generating sets or other sources of power which are not conducive for their work. Additionally, using generating sets is expensive.
The situation has therefore forced most of the hospitals to either turn away patients or take the risk to provide service with unorthodox power sources.
Health officials and patients rely on lights from mobile phones and torch light to administer health care anytime the area is hit by power cuts.
At the Kaneshie Polyclinic which serves thousands of people in and around Kaneshie, in Accra the national capital, nurses use torch lights to deliver pregnant women of their babies due to the breakdown of its generator.
On Sunday, May 10, nurses at the hospital were forced to deliver a woman in labour with their torch light at about 10:45pm.
At the Ridge Hospital, which is Greater Accra’s Regional Hospital, nurses had to turn away a polytechnic student, who was brought to the facility at night after she had been beaten by a snake.
There was no power at the hospital at that time and, according to the nurse on duty, they could not properly access the area where the snake bite was, so they asked that she should be taken to another facility where there was light.
But unfortunately, the young lady who was a second year student at the Accra Polytechnic, died before they could get to a facility which had light.
The situation is not only prevalent in the capital city as midwives and nurses at the Fomena Health Centre in the Ashanti Region have been depending on lights from their mobile phones, torch lights, as well as candlelight to assist women in labour to deliver their babies.
The centre has no standby generating set and whenever there is a power outage, the health workers are forced to improvise.
The acting Medical Director of the centre, Mr Isaac Odame Awuku, said the method, though unconventional, was an indication of the staff’s commitment to work, even in the face of a national power crisis.
According to him, the power crisis had a serious effect on the running of the health centre because it had no standby generating set to power its equipment.
Hospitals that have generating sets, such as the Achimota Hospital in Accra are also faced with the high cost of fuelling them.
The Medical Superintendent at the hospital, Dr Mildred Kumasa, said the hospital had to use all of its internally generated funds to power its generating set whenever the light went off, a situation which, she said, was rampant and was, therefore, crippling the finances of the hospital.
Also she said the generator was old and could not work for more than two hours and, therefore, the hospital had to allow it to cool off for about an hour after every two hours. “When this happens then it means we have to stop everything we are doing to wait for the generator to cool down before we can put it on again to continue with our work”.
She also lamented the fact that when there is no light, they were unable to sterilise their equipment, which, she said, could easily aid in the spread of infections.
In an interview with the Public Relations Officer of Ghana’s Ministry of Health, Mr Tony Goodman, the ministry he said had received a lot of complaints from both the public and private hospitals that the power crisis was throwing them out of business.
He said the country’s health sector would run into serious crisis if an immediate solution was not found to the power crisis confronting Ghana now.
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Ghana’s sources of energy are hydro-electric dams and thermal plants.
The dams which provide about 75 per cent of the power source presently have low water levels. A minor reason for this is the insufficient amount of rainfall over the years and the major reason being a fall in the flow of water from upstream following the construction of dams in Burkina Faso, on an important water source to the Volta Lake.
Due to these reasons, the country has over the last decade been experiencing energy crisis but the situation has degenerated from 2011 till today.
(C) Politico 09/07/15