Power failure at Malawi’s major referral Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital Lilongwe on Christams Day resulted in the death of four children as the ventilator oxygen machine was rendered ineffective.
Member of Parliament for Kasungu West (Malawi Congress Party – MCP), Alex Major said he was at the hospital when power went off, saying many children were on oxygen machines.
He said within an hour which he was in the ward, they witnessed the death of four children.
“The generator wasn’t used , we heard there was a fault but it took time before power returned,” Major said.
Other hospital workers speaking on condition of anonymity confimed that four patients died after a generator failed to start when the power went off. The generator had apparently run out of diesel.
No one at the hospital could justify the reason behind not using the generator for such a power blackout.
Major was at the hospital to visit a relation was about to be moved to normal children’s ward and survived.
In most cases, the oxygen is provided in Intersive Care Unit (ICU), and ICU machines need electricity to function.
“There were four children who died during the period of the blackout,” said the witness, who asked not to be named as she is not authorised to speak to the media as a nurse.
She said the nurses, who had tried in vain to resuscitate the children, said power blackour had led to their deaths.
“One of the nurses had cried uncontrollably afterwards,” said the source.
She said the immediate cause of death for the children was that when the power switched off, as they could not breathe without a ventilator.
Recently, the National Organization of Nurses and Midwives says the current power cut and shortages are affecting the country’s health service delivery system.
Executive Director, Dorothy Ngoma, said the country’s health is in crisis reportedly after deaths are reported at t he country’s referral hospitals, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) and Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) because of blackouts.
Malawi is currently experiencing critical power outages as the utility provider Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) is failing to generate enough power to meet demand.
Ngoma criticised the government for failing to solve the problem.
“There’s people’s lives concerned here,” she said, adding “we are witnessing the worst incident of a crumbling health service delivery system in recent times.”
Speaking on Times Radio, Ngoma said: “ We have cases of premature babies dying in hospitals due to the abscence of power for the incubators and whenever authorities are told about these things, they would ask for names of those children who are dying. I say this is unacceptable.”
She said Malawi nurses and midwives, who are already demotivated by low pay and a bad working environment, are now working in the toughest environment in the country’s history.
“Some nurses and midwives are reported to be using flash lights of their mobile phones in the course of their duties. Imagine a nurse having to do this whilst helping a woman deliver her child,” she said.
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