It has emerged that the Vihiga County Government ignored Kenya Power's advice to not commission a Sh30 million oxygen plant at the county referral hospital until proper electricity supply load was installed.
This was revealed when Kenya Power distanced itself from blame over breakdown of the plant commissioned in May, coming after acting Health executive Prof Inonda Mwanje had pointed the accusing finger at power supply challenges at the hospital in Mbale.
The breakdown has caused a crisis in oxygen generation and supply in the county amid rising Covid-19 cases, with Prof Mwanje saying the devolved unit is now forced to procure the commodity from its neighbours.
Nation.Africa has established that Kenya Power had in April this year, a month before Governor Wilber Ottichilo commissioned the oxygen plant, given the devolved unit a Sh5.1 million quotation to enable it upgrade power supply to the health facility.
This, according to advice from the power supplier, would enable effective running of the oxygen plant and the Sh27 million five-bed ICU once the load is upgraded.
However, the county went ahead to commission the plant and ICU on May 20 without the upgrade, as it sought to boost emergency treatment at the county's main health facility.
The oxygen plant that was procured from France is designed to generate 300 litres of the vital commodity per minute.
Kenya Power County Manager Eng Allan Saliku confirmed that the firm issued the quotation to enable installation of proper power supply to run the plant. This, he added, could only be done once the county paid the required sum.
"Once they pay, we will only take two weeks to upgrade their supply," said Eng Saliku.
After commissioning of the plant, Kenya Power had sent an advisory to Governor Wilber Ottichilo dated June 16, where the firm's Western Regional Manager Ms Sarah Wepukhulu raised the matter of non-payment for the upgrade.
The advisory was also copied to County Commissioner Ochillo Oyugi. Ms Wepukhulu reminded Dr Ottichilo about the unpaid bill that was delivered on April 23, about a month before the oxygen plant was commissioned and operationalised.
"The relevant office was notified of the quotation to pay to necessitate additional load to the hospital. However, to date, no action has been taken from your end," Ms Wepukhulu told Dr Ottichilo in the letter.
The Kenya Power official then requested the governor's intervention "to enable us to finalise the work".
The devolved unit has not indicated when it will be ready to effect the payment even as Prof Mwanje assured that the administration has reached out to Kenya Power to install a bigger transformer.
For now, the county is buying oxygen from outside.