Darkness deepens

March 31, 2010

Patients suffer as DMCH, other hospitals face severe load-shedding
The ongoing electricity crisis took heavy toll on the patients as Dhaka Medical College Hospital experienced three hours of power cuts yesterday, causing halt to services and immense sufferings to patients.
The hospital authorities were forced to suspend surgeries and pathological tests. As daylight barely reaches the wards, it was dark there.
Failing to tackle the worsening electricity crisis, the government yesterday directed all electricity consumers to keep their air conditioners switched off from 6:00pm to 11:00pm until further notice.
The suffering of DMCH patients without fans and lights was unbearable. Three emergency and children’s wards were also out of power. It was the first such power failure in years that caused services to be stopped.
The backup generators were able to supply electricity to only intensive care sections.
Director of the DMCH Brig Gen Shahidul Haque Mallik admitted the suffering of patients. “But the generator was on… We were able to deliver intensive care… the Intensive Care Unit, Coronary Care Unit, emergency wards and the labour ward had power,” he claimed.
He said they informed Power Development Board of the matter and it assured them of no future power cuts at DMCH.
A large number of patients who went to the outdoor section seeking treatment returned as no pathological tests could be done between 11:30am and 1:30pm.
Akash, a 14-year-old boy, went to DMCH from Rupganj in Narayanganj around 10:00am with his mother.
“The doctor asked me for an x-ray and some blood tests but as there was no power I had to wait two hours. But at 1:30pm when power was restored the authorities at the outdoor section said that it was time for them to close and asked me to come another day,” he said.
Hospital sources said hundreds of pathological tests could not be conducted yesterday. Many indoor patients had to go to different diagnostic centres for their tests.
Power outages have become a usual phenomenon at most city hospitals.
Director of Shaheed Suhrawardi Hospital Mujibur Rahman told The Daily Star, “If the power goes in the morning, x-ray, ultra sonogram and other pathological tests are severely hindered. In the morning, a huge number of patients throng the hospital and we cannot tell them go away.”
Miseries of city dwellers have become unbearable as frequent load-shedding is worsening city life. With the mercury rising, people’s suffering seem to multiply.
Power failures are not occurring only in the usual alternate hours during the day, it is taking place deep in the night as well. On Saturday, the government decided to shed 150-200 megawatts of power in Dhaka between midnight and 9:00am to meet the demand for irrigation in this boro season.
The government yesterday directed electricity consumers to turn off all air-conditioning units between 6:00pm and 11:00pm, the peak hours, with immediate effect.
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission in the directive also asked the consumers not to lower their room temperature below 25 degrees centigrade with their air-conditioning units during the off peak hours.
All residential buildings, government and non-government organisation offices, business firms, markets and shops were instructed to follow the directives. Hospitals, residential hotels and restaurants have been kept outside the purview of the directive.
BERC Chairman Syed Yusuf Hossain made the decisions public yesterday at a press conference held at the BERC conference room.
Replying to a question on how the commission plans to implement their decision, Yusuf said the commission has currently no wing to monitor whether consumers are complying with the directives.
“The commission is not thinking about punishing anyone for violation of these directives. It is a moral obligation of the consumers to follow the directive for greater interest of the country,” Yusuf said.
The chairman, however, said if electricity-supplying companies report to the commission about violations of the directives, the commission may issue warning letters to the consumers.
Clarifying the authority of the BERC, its member Selim Mahmud said the commission could penalise a consumer Tk 2,000 or three months jail or both for violating such directives.
Yusuf said the decisions were made to save a substantial amount of power and ensure uninterrupted power supply to boro cultivators and improve power situation for the SSC examinees.
He claimed electricity production and supply is currently experiencing a critical time due to poor investment in the sector and growing demand.
The commission expects that if the decision is fully implemented 200 to 400 megawatts of power could be saved.
The business community expressed mixed reaction to this decision. They said it would only aggravate people’s annoyance.
Anis A Khan, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank, termed the move unwise and impractical. He questioned the supervising policy of the government.
Shahjahan Bhuiyan, managing director of United Commercial Bank, said the move would cause serious displeasure among people.
“The government could have discussed the issue with the chambers, banks and other trade bodies before making the decision,” he said.
President of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry Annisul Huq said people generally do not use air conditioners until 10:00am. The monitoring would be very difficult as it takes only seconds to turn on and off air conditioners.
However, Anis Ud Dowla, president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the decision.
“Our industrial sector is suffering from power crisis. We must cut off luxuries to save as much power as we can to save the sector,” he said.
He said he would ask his personal offices and members of the association to abide by the directives.
President of an export-oriented garment factory Viyellatex Group David Hasanat said the decision is unrealistic, as lifestyle does not change instantly. International buyers need constant air conditioning, as their lifestyles are different from that of ours.
There are some sophisticated machinery and equipment in factories that require certain temperatures for smooth operations, he added.
Helaluddin, president of Dhaka City Shop Owners Association, said BERC has already lost people’s respect for their failure in generating adequate power. “The decision will only add to people’s dissatisfaction with the government and the commission,” he added.
According to him, customers would turn away from shops, which have little ventilation, as many shops in the city are fully dependent on air conditioners.
General manager (operations) of chain store Aarong, Abdur Rouf, said this decision is fine for homes but tough on supermarkets.
He said, “Supermarkets remain closed one day a week to save electricity. How can the government ask the shop owners to keep their air conditioners switched off?”

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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