KARACHI: The Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC), in a shocking move, cut the electricity supply of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, the city’s largest public tertiary hospital, for over an hour on Wednesday. In hot water over the move, the KESC Public Relations Officer Amir Abbasi told The Express Tribune that the power supply was cut because of a misunderstanding between the lower-level staff. He insisted that the management had not given any directives to shut down the hospital’s power supply.
“We didn’t get directives from anyone and as soon as we found out about it the management decided to restore the electricity,” he said. The hospital, though, is not willing to buy this explanation. According to Dr Seemin Jamali, joint director and in charge of emergency, “there was no misunderstanding. It was all in black and white.” The JPMC director spoke to the managing director of the KESC and explained the whole situation, but the MD accused him of making incorrect statements, Jamali said. Meanwhile, according to officials, the electricity was restored after orders from President Asif Ali Zardari, who found out about the incident when he was in Bahawalpur. The president instructed that power supply to any hospital should never be disconnected, the officials added. A tiff over electricity has been going on for some time between the power supplier and the hospital.
The KESC says that the hospital owes it Rs22.8 million in outstanding dues of the last 18 months, while the hospital management claims that they have paid the bills till the month of December. JPMC said that they had written to the KESC after receiving a notice last month regarding outstanding bills. The hospital claims to have told the utility that the matter had been reported to the health secretary and that the generation of funds would take some time. “We received one notice from the KESC and wrote three letters to them. Of the three, we wrote one letter on Tuesday and one today,” said Jamali.
In spite of the letters, according to the hospital, the KESC cut the power supply without any warning or notification. For the hour and 20 minutes that the hospital was without electricity, nine operation theatres, the X-ray departments and CT scans were severely affected, said Dr Jamali. There were long queues of people outside the emergency centre as very few patients could be catered to. Dr Jamali further said that the hospital’s 1000-kilovoltampere generator could only supply power to some areas of the hospital, which includes operation theatres and surgical intensive care units. Talking to the media after the electricity supply was restored, Dr Jamali said that they are trying to pay the bills which were delayed due to “budgetary deficit”.
KESC’s power cuts are not new. In the past year, the KESC cut the electricity supply of government offices and institutions, including the city government’s offices, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, Defence Housing Authority’s office and nine police stations. However, certain institutions like public hospitals and the Sindh Assembly are exempted from power outages.