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Honiara blackouts life-threatening for patients

By Douglas Marau HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 6, 2011) – In the Solomons, the continuous power blackouts in Honiara have caused havoc for patients at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) putting dozens into serious life-threatening situations.

With the hospital’s generator also busted, lives of patients on life-saving machines were at great risk.

On Sunday night, the Solomon Star received calls from distraught patients that the blackout that night has left doctors and nurses helpless as they scrambled around the dark for back-up oxygen, fearing the worse for patients on life-support.

The blackout went on for about 45 minutes.

A visit by the Solomon Star that night proved there was total darkness with only torch lights and mobile phones used by nurses and patients to move around.

[PIR editor’s note: The recent blackout follows another major power loss in July 2011 when an outage that lasted almost an hour led to similar concerns for patients. That night, at least five women patients were in labor, and similarly, many newborns that required constant oxygen supplies were at risk of dying during the power outage.]

Senior doctors at the country’s principal hospital have voiced their concern calling on hospital authorities to address the situation as soon as possible.

"Whenever there are blackouts we are left helpless only to worry lives of patients on life support are not at risk," senior doctors said.

"Hospital should be the last place that should experience blackouts because it’s risking the lives of our patients as we have pregnant mothers, patients on life-support as well as we need electricity at all times for special care nursery for new born babies for example."

The Solomon Star contacted the hospital’s medical superintendent Dr Loreen Oti but denied having any knowledge of the situation.

But hospital secretary Jimmy Masa denied there generator was faulty.

"Our generator was okay, the problem was with the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority (SIEA) transformer," he said.

"When power went out on Sunday night our generator automatically turned on but because the transformer was faulty, it could not supply power through."

Meanwhile, the Solomon Star understands the power blackout was caused by a fault in an underground cable running from the Lunga power station to the Ranadi sub-station.

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