Lives at risk as Coast General hospital goes without electricity

Coast General hospital

A patient walks outside the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in Mombasa County on March 7, 2023.

Photo credit: Winnie Atieno | Nation Media Group

The lives of 30 intensive care patients and 60 infants inside incubators at the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital’s newborn unit in Mombasa are at risk following a power supply issue.

While the Mombasa County Chief of Staff, Noah Akala, cited a disconnection over a Sh10 million debt, Kenya Power’s Coast Regional Manager, Mr Hicks Waswa, called it a "breakdown" and said the supplier was working to fix the problem.

The county has not paid the Sh10 million electricity bill for two months.

Mr Waswa said, however, that power supply to the hospital had not been disconnected as alleged.

“It is a breakdown. We are looking for ways to restore their supply as soon as possible,” he said.

iqbal khandwala

Dr Iqbal Khandwala, Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital's chief administrator, speaks to the press on March 7, 2023, following a power supply breakdown that forces the postponement of key operations.

Photo credit: Winnie Atieno | Nation Media Group

Huge risks

Coast General is the largest referral hospital in the region, with a bed capacity of at least 700, and serves Kwale, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Mombasa and Tana River counties, offering specialised medical services.

Dr Iqbal Khandwala, the hospital’s chief administrator, explained what's at risk on Tuesday evening, urging Kenya Power to restore the supply.

Noting the facility cannot operate without electricity, Dr Khandwala say they were forced to postpone 15 operations, for cancer as well as brain and laparoscopic surgeries.

“This is a busy hospital as we have eight theatres. In the morning we were to conduct at least 42 to 64 operations, but in the middle of surgery, the power went off. Power tripped my oxygen generator and switched off the oxygen supply for a couple of minutes during surgeries. We received an alert from the theatre. Cutting power is a wrong move,” said Dr Khandwala.

The surgeon said he is also worried about referral cases from neighboring counties, especially Taita Taveta.

“How will I serve them? We are on a generator but for how long will we continue before power supply is reinstated? There will be a catastrophe. The only debt we have is for two months, January and February, which can be settled after power is restored,” he said.

Kadzandani MCA Fatma Kushe

Kadzandani ward representative Fatma Kushe during a press conference at the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital on March 7, 2023, when a power supply problem disrupted operations.

Photo credit: Winnie Atieno | Nation Media Group

MPs plan action

Meanwhile, the Mombasa County Assembly said it was seeking a censure motion against Mr Waswa.

MCAs accused the official of risking the lives of hundreds of patients from the region, who depend on the hospital for specialised treatment.

“We have called for an emergency censure motion against Mr Waswa. We want him to be liable for murder for disconnecting power at the hospital yet there are patients at the critical facility. This is inhumane. Lives are at stake here,” said Ms Fatma Kushe, who is also the deputy chairperson of the county assembly’s health committee.

Coast General hospital

Patients collect drugs at a pharmacy inside the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in Momabsa County on March 7, 2023.

Photo credit: Winnie Atieno | Nation Media Group

Changamwe MCA Bernard Ogutu said: “We have pre-term babies in incubators, if anyone passes away, we will sue Kenya Power. They could have disconnected power at the county assembly or the governor’s office, not at a hospital which is an essential service provider.”

The ward representatives also blamed the national government, citing a delay in the disbursement of funds to counties.

Noting the county has not received funds for more than three months, they urged President William Ruto to intervene and direct Kenya Power to restore electricity supply.