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Health ministry tasks UMEME to put hospitals on direct power lines

FILE PHOTO: Minister Opendi

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Health Ministry has asked power distributor UMEME to consider connecting all Regional Referral hospitals on stable power lines to ensure they don’t experience outages.

This follows two power outages at Naguru Hospital last week. The first outage occurred on December 31st, 2018 around 9:00 pm leaving the hospital in total darkness for two hours. The outage also affected areas of Naguru, Bukoto and Ntinda.

The other incident happened on 4 January 2019 following a storm that caused a power outage in the city. The outage prompted medics at the hospital to stop operating on an expectant mother leading to the death of her baby due to lack of fuel to run a standby generator.

Now, the State Health Minister in Charge of General Duties, Sarah Achieng, says the electricity company needs to consider put human lives at the forefront of making money.

“It is unfortunate of what happened on Friday with the storm and also on Monday night. UMEME needs to take heart and consider its actions. Electricity should be about saving lives and not making money,” she said.

Achieng says they are going to sit down with the Energy Minister to make sure that hospitals don’t lack power when it can be avoided. “We want to sit with the minister in charge so that she finds a way to make sure that hospitals do not face power outages unless during nationwide blackouts when it is unavoidable,” she said.

Dr. Emmanuel Bitame, the Executive Director Naguru Hospital, says the hospital faces continuous power outages. He says efforts to ask UMEME to change their lines have been futile.

“In this area we frequently don’t have power. We have tried to ask UMEME to put us on another line that does not lose power but nothing has been done. And that is why we find ourselves in such a situation,” he said.

According to the Health Ministry, all regional referral hospitals have standby generators that are supposed to be used in case of power outages or blackouts. Dr. Bitamwe says they often run out of fuel due to frequent power outages.

UMEME Media Manager, Stephen Illungole, says the electricity company is working towards making sure that all major hospitals are on direct electricity lines.

“We are working on making sure that most big hospitals are on direct lines and do not face electricity outages. At UMEME we try as much as possible to keep these lines on. Even when hospitals owe UMEME money, we don’t take them off,” he said.

In April 2018, services at Tororo hospital came to a stop when UMEME disconnected electricity at the hospital due to unpaid bills totaling to Shillings 269million for over two weeks.

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