At Polyclinic, the second largest public hospital in Islamabad, patients and staffers are bearing the brunt of power and gas outages. Staff are finding routine activities unmanageable, as sterilisation of surgical equipment, preparing meals, maintaining the temperature, all are affected, along with many diagnostic items in the outpatient departments (OPD).
Meanwhile, around 8,000 patients visiting the OPDs have to wait for hours for the power to come back on so a doctor could check them, because there is no power back up facility for these departments.
As for the heating, five children who were admitted to the hospital with various diseases caught pneumonia in hospital, which may be attributed to the lack of gas to fuel the heating system.
“My child has a gastrointestinal problem, and it is difficult to keep him warm due to the lack of heating. At night when the temperature drops, he starts coughing and sneezing,” said Arshad, who has come with his son from a village near Chakwal.
Zobeya, a resident of Bhara Kahu, was sitting in a long queue outside the liver centre of the hospital and was trying to calm her one-year-old baby.
“I came here at 11:45 am and at noon the lights went out due to which doctors stopped checking patients until the light came back. It is difficult to sit in an overcrowded place with children and wait for hours,” she said.
A staffer who assists in preparing meals for inpatients told The Express Tribune that due to the acute gas outage, they have brought gas cylinders as a backup system, but even that is not enough to meet demand. “Patients are often left with no option but to purchase food from outside, which is often either unhygienic or unaffordable for many,” he said.
He said the situation is a repeat of last year.
Polyclinic spokesperson Dr Sharif Astori said the power outage issue came up because a transformer had burnt down and the hospital generators were supplying electricity only to critical areas such as the emergency wards and the operation theatre. He estimated that the power outage issue will be resolved within a day or two.
However, he was less optimistic about the gas shortage, calling it “a serious matter” and lamenting that the hospital administration is helpless as it is the responsibility of Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) to ensure the uninterrupted gas supply to the hospital.
The Express Tribune tried to contact SNGPL General Manger Ijaz Chaudhry for the company’s version, but he did not answer his phone.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2013.