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ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: A major power breakdown across Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa disrupted hospitals in the twin cities, leading to postponed surgeries, interrupted water supply and, in the case of Polyclinic in Islamabad, half an hour without electricity.

Mohammad Faisal told Dawn he was at Polyclinic to pick up a report for his relative when the power went out. He was asked my staff to wait until the backup generator came on.

“However, the generator could not be started for many minutes, which panicked not only patients and their relatives but panic was also observed among hospital staff.

Suddenly, a woman who seemed to be a senior hospital official arrived and asked why the generator could not be started.

“However, a staffer who was present there told her the batteries of the generator were not working due to which it could not be started. The woman said she had already directed the staff to be prepared for any emergency and make arrangements in advance because such things cannot be tolerated in hospitals,” he said.

Mr Faisal said power was restored after a half hour, when the generator began working, and people were informed that they would be able to receive their reports.

The hospital’s spokesperson, Dr Sharif Astori, said that although there was a problem for a while, the issue was resolved and the generators began working, because of which electricity was restored in most of the hospital.

In the wake of the breakdown, the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) has decided to make an emergency disaster plan to deal with 24 to 48 hour breakdowns.

“On Wednesday, we learned that such situations cannot be ignored in the future, so we should be ready to deal with it. Unfortunately, our tubewells are not connected to generators, so after three hours we decided to arrange water through tankers because hospitals cannot run without water,” Pims Executive Director Dr Raja Amjad said.

He added that after the power breakdown, officials were deputed to check whether all of the hospital’s intensive care units and wards were receiving electricity.

“We have one 700kVA generator, and two 500kVA generators. However, it has been decided that we will get another generator of 1,600kVA to ensure that Pims does not face any problem of electricity in the future even if we face power breakdowns of 24 or 48 hours. Moreover, tubewells will be shifted to generators,” he said.

He added that Pims keeps two drums of diesel in storage, but will now keep eight. In Rawalpindi, surgeries at all three government-run hospitals were cancelled, but operations were carried out in emergency departments using backup generators.

The online registration system at hospitals also turned off, leading to long queues of patients seeking entry passes to be examined by doctors in the outpatient departments.

Holy Family Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Shahzad Ahmed told Dawn the hospital ran its generators for the intensive care unit (ICU), “as patients on ventilators need support for their lives”.

He added that no major problems occurred because the hospital has more than five generators, which also support C.T. Scan and MRI machines.

“These machines had a special generator for a backup electric supply. The online registration system developed a fault but we managed to register patient data manually, which will be updated on the system in the evening,” he said.

At the District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) in Raja Bazaar, the breakdown led to a water shortage because the water machine could not run on the generator.

The issue erupted in the evening, an hour before power was restored, DHQ Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Khalid Randhawa said, adding that the water shortage did not increase further. He said an extra generator was used for the mortuary, to keep the cooling system running.

In addition to hospitals, operations at government offices, especially land records offices, and banks were also disrupted by the breakdown.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2018

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