Home Health Hospitals grounded, patients suffer as erratic power supply worsens mortality rate

Hospitals grounded, patients suffer as erratic power supply worsens mortality rate

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Hospitals grounded, patients suffer as erratic power supply worsens mortality rate

Many hospitals are becoming redundant due to Nigeria’s abysmal power supply situation, leaving patients to suffer and die.

Nigeria’s poor power supply situation has not only resulted in the death of industries but also contributed to the high mortality rate. There has been a negative impact on the operations of hospitals and medical facilities.
Medical doctors confirmed that while there are hospitals that are equipped to deal with hundreds of poor people, they find it difficult to be efficient at providing medical services.
This, they said, was due to the country’s erratic electricity supply and exorbitant cost of sourcing alternative power.
It was gathered that many private hospital patients with severe cases, who were referred to teaching and general hospitals due to lack of adequate power supply in the private hospitals, often spent months and years on the waiting lists of the government-owned hospitals.
At times, some of the patients die before it gets their turn for proper treatment at these government-owned hospitals.
Adelyne Anozie, the mother of seven-year-old Daniel, who died after battling with cerebral palsy all through his life, explained how the lack of electricity at a private hospital, where her son was given birth to, led to the sickness that eventually killed his son.
“At a private hospital in Kosofe, Ketu in Lagos, in September 2010, I had my baby, Daniel, but during the process of delivery, there was a power “This disrupted the process and led to some minutes of delay because it was around midnight. The baby struggled and eventually came out, but did not cry as is expected of a baby that has just been delivered.
“The hospital was supposed to administer oxygen, according to what I was told, but before they could get their generator running and attend to the baby, the damage to my baby’s brain had been done,” Anozie narrated to our correspondent.
She explained that from that moment till her son passed in June 2018, the child struggled to cope with cerebral palsy, as he was taken from one hospital to another.
Anozie stated, “This is a typical case of sickness, suffering and death that was basically caused by the poor power supply situation that we face in this country. You cannot imagine the suffering that my husband and I went through during those seven years.
“Daniel could not sit, stand or eat on his own. We had to support him to do virtually everything. He was looking so handsome and complete, but his brain had been damaged from birth. It was so painful and heart-rending for us.”
Aside from the challenges encountered by patients from the dismal electricity situation, many hospitals are currently on the verge of collapse, as they could not cope with the humongous cost required to source power independently.
“The impact of poor electricity supply to our hospitals is colossal. To say the least, the power supply is the most important factor, apart from this brain drain issue that we face currently,” the President of the Association of Nigerian Private Medical Practitioners, Dr. Kayode Adesola, told our correspondent.
He added, “I will attest to the fact that a number of people are facing complications and other things which are caused by the difficulty in procuring energy. So, when you are talking of the impact of the electricity crisis, it has really impacted our practice adversely.”
Unmet expectations despite privatisation
In November 2013, the Federal Government through the Bureau of Public Enterprises officially privatised the six successor power generation companies and 11 distribution firms that were unbundled from the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria.
According to the BPE, a total of $1.26bn was paid by investors to acquire 60 per cent stake in the distribution companies, while the government retained 40 per cent.
For the six generation companies, the BPE generated $1.27bn from the sales of the power plants, which brought the total proceeds from the privatization of the Discos and Gencos to $2.53bn.
The value of both transactions at the time was about N404bn based on the exchange rate of the United States dollar then.
The Federal Government still manages the transmission arm of the business through the Transmission Company of Nigeria. However, there have been calls for the unbundling of TCN. Discos and Gencos had often described transmission as a weak link in the electricity chain.
But almost 10 years after the takeover of the country’s power assets by private investors, the sector has continued to grapple with daunting challenges that have stunted its growth.
Power generation, for instance, has persistently hovered around an average of 4,000 megawatts for a population of over 200 million and there have been repeated cases of national electricity grid collapse.
Due to the incessant power outage in the country, businesses in various sectors of the economy have been forced to rely on independent sources for electricity, leading to the huge investment in power-generating sets, increasing the capital expenses of these ventures.
This was further compounded by the spike in the cost of Automotive Gas Oil, popularly called diesel, which is majorly used in running these generators. This has continued to put a strain on the cash flow of businesses, including hospitals.
Hospitals lament diesel price
“Remember, about two years ago, the price of diesel suddenly shot up from between N190 and N200/litre to over N800/litre. And most hospitals run on diesel. This means that their overheads have been multiplied,” the president of private medical practitioners stated.
Adesola explained that though the cost of most medical items had increased, energy costs have soared astronomically.
This, he said, made private medical practitioners enter into partnership with the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, but noted that the collaboration had yet to deliver the desired result.
“Two years ago, we tried to go into partnership with the NERC. What we want from them is to have a special tariff for the health sector. They met with our board, and we had a joint committee. We started on a good note.
“But they wanted us to talk to the Transmission Company of Nigeria on our request to have a special tariff for health facilities across the country and make TCN buy the idea. However, there have been a lot of things to address concerning this,” the ANPMP president stated.
He said the special tariff for health facilities was crucial because the cost of energy incurred by hospitals had increased by over 400 per cent in the past two years, stressing that this was not sustainable.
Adesola said, “A situation whereby you were running your hospital on diesel for about N2m monthly, and it has increased to N8m, is too significant and impacts adversely on the organisation.
“And the patients who you would have pushed this cost to, many of them are impoverished by the state of our economy, as they don’t have money.
“So, while you are bearing more and more costs, the people to who you are supposed to pass the cost to cannot afford to pay. This tells you how bad the situation in the health sector is currently.”
Another doctor and member of the private practitioners’ association told our correspondent that the NERC agreed to work with the ANPMP because of the significance of the health sector, though this had yet to come to fruition.
“If you go to some hotels, you will find out that many of them have jerked up their prices, but the NERC told us that they want to work with us because hotel operators approached the regulator and were turned down.
“This is because if you go to a hotel that cost N50,000 per night, and you cannot afford it, you will move to another one for N25,000. But when somebody is sick, you have to give him attention, without you telling the person to move to the hospital that is cheaper,” the doctor, who pleaded not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said.
He noted that there was a need for the government to see the health sector as the most critical, because anybody can be sick, adding that the health of a nation is the health of its people.
“We also say health is wealth, for if you have N100bn in your account, and you are sick, you forget the money and face your health issues. Therefore, until every citizen comes out to face this, we are all going nowhere,” he added.
Adesola elucidated that the amount spent by hospitals and other health facilities in trying to provide power to run their outfits had jumped by about 400 per cent in two years.
He said, “Whatever the cost was in the past and what it is now is a matter of ratio. The cost went from about N200/litre to over N800/litre. So, we are talking of not less than four times the previous bill on the supply of diesel alone.
“We are not talking about the maintenance of the generators and the people who work with them. We are talking of just the fuelling. So, if we have a stable electricity supply in Nigeria, we will save a lot of money.
“In the past, if doctors spent an average of N4b on diesel, you are talking of four times that amount currently, which should be between N16bn to N20bn. This is quite colossal.”
He gave an instance of a member of the association in Nasarawa, who owned a big hospital, stating that “whenever he (the member) has a serious case to attend to that will require bringing a team of doctors; he will look at how much it will cost to run his generators on diesel.”
“This member said he now prefers to refer patients to government hospitals because they will get subventions for diesel there. So, the situation is indirectly killing the business. It is as bad as that.
“For when you have something to do, which you know you can do, you have the capacity, facilities and equipment, but because of energy supply constraints, you will be looking at what you would spend on fuel, knowing that by the time you finish, you may not have any money left. And because of this, you decide to push out the patient. And mind you, that is a facility that you set up to treat patients.”
Patients suffer, die
Doctors explained that patients have also had to bear the brunt of the country’s epileptic power supply, leading to higher mortality rates and negatively affecting the health indices.
“Why is this so? A patient came with a complaint, which you have the facility to intervene, but the cost of energy did not allow you to do that,” another member of ANPMP, who was not authorised to speak, stated.
He lamented that doctors were forced to refer patients to a general hospital because of electricity challenges.
Patients who were referred to government-owned hospitals had to endure queues before they were attended to, he said.
“Many patients may not get attention at the right time, the case may become complicated or your patient may eventually die.
“As a doctor who is trained to save lives, you are not happy with that. So, it is affecting all of us. A lot of patients know that when they go to private hospitals, they get almost immediate attention. If you want to do surgery and I tell you it is going to cost you N500,000 if you have the money you pay and immediately, we will prepare to run it.
“But out there at government hospitals, it is not always like that, because they have too many people on their waiting lists, and they cannot allow anybody to jump over the other person. So, some people die while waiting.”
Confirming this, Adesola said the association had records of patients who waited for three years before it they were attended to by a doctor in government hospitals.
He said, “Some patients wait for as much as three years in some teaching hospitals and general hospitals. I have been in the sector for decades, and I am talking authoritatively.
“I have worked in teaching hospitals and in private facilities. So, I am speaking authoritatively. I am not guessing. And all this is now compounded by the fact that there has been a very serious brain drain in the sector.
“So, even the number of doctors available to attend to the patients has reduced drastically, and that makes your waiting time even longer. It is really a very serious issue, with a lot of ripple effects.”
Experts weigh in
“How can you consistently run a business in any sector of the economy on diesel-powered generators and you expect the business to thrive for a long time?” a former President of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Dr Sam Nzekwe, wondered.
He said the government had not given the power sector the required attention, with respect to tackling concerns associated with electricity generation, transmission and distribution.
He said, “There is no way the economy can improve without power. How can you improve without electricity? It is not possible for you to use generators every time. What are you going to produce? What will be the cost of your output?
“Since you do not have power, your production cost will become too high and when linked to the devaluation of the naira, you will realise that it becomes difficult to buy things.
“These are some of the issues the incoming government should be looking at. When they talk about economic development and so on, they must realise that they have to provide an enabling environment. If not, the economy will not work.”
Different consumer groups have called for an urgent review of the privatisation of the power sector as a way of tackling the erratic electricity supply in the country.
They urged the government to give priority to power generation and supply in order to revamp the Nigerian economy.
“Our advice to the incoming administration is to review, as a matter of urgency, the entire gamut of the power sector privatisation exercise,” the President of Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, who served in the National Technical Investigative Panel on Power System Collapses/System Stability and Reliability (June 2013), Kunle Olubiyo, stated.
The NCPN president stressed that the new administration would not make headway if it failed to address the alleged corruption that characterised the privatisation of the power sector.
Olubiyo said, “The privatisation exercise was marred and flawed with vested interests and corruption. And so, the monopoly of the Discos (distribution companies) cannot take us to the promised land. It should be reviewed.
“This is because the law, without litigation, provides a 10-year window, from 2013 to 2023. So, this year, we will be having the opportunity to exit the cobwebs of regulatory entanglement with which the country was arm twisted.
“Therefore, we expect a total review of the licencing regime, where some Discos were made landlords and owners of some regional electricity distribution hubs. That should be broke en, this year.”
He suggested that the Discos should be broken into smaller units to “create a situation where the competition will drive the electricity sector and not what we have at the moment, where consumers do not have options.”
Also, the National Secretary of the Network of Electricity Consumers Advocacy of Nigeria, Uket Obonga, said NECAN had repeatedly stated that the privatisation of the sector should be reviewed, as this was one major way of forging ahead in the country’s power supply business.

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