Blackout at San Fernando General Hospital

An electrical blackout at the San Fernando General Hospital left patients hungry and in tears on Thursday.

The hospital which accommodates more than 750 patients went dark around 1 pm. Before the blackout, patients were told that electrical works had to be done and there will be a disruption in supply between 1 pm to 7 pm. 

When the Guardian visited the hospital around 5 pm, the corridors on the lower floors were in complete darkness. Visitor Rajesh Maharaj who went to Ward One said, "You need a torchlight to go in there.

The whole place dark and it is not even night time as yet."

Shanti Lokai wiped sweat from her brows.

"It so hot in there I could not take it. I had to leave. I don't know how they expect people to stay in there."

One the first floor of the Neo-surgical Unit, a male patient was seen bareback on the corridor and sweating profusely. 

"I am feeling so sick in there. I cannot understand how there is no generator. I am praying that the current will come back soon," he said. He added that the worse part of the blackout was the closure of the kitchen.

"They gave us some bread and milk and said that is supper. We cannot get any food because the kitchen is closed so we have to pray that someone visits to bring us something to eat," he said.

Another patient who requested anonymity said he expected that many people will be dead by morning if the electricity was not restored soon. 

On the third floor of the hospital, several pregnant women sat on benches outside of the hospital ward. 

One woman who identified herself as Anjalie said she was worried.

"I am getting pain and I don't know what will happen. How will they care for my baby if something goes wrong?" she said with tears in her eyes. She said the nurses never left the ward but was taking good care of everyone despite the unbearable conditions.

"I don't know what is happening to our health sector. How could the hospital be without lights," she asked. A man who was standing on the corridor looked distant and unhappy. When approached by the Guardian he said, "I have to be strong for my wife. She will make the baby anytime. I am grateful that the nurses are taking care of her," he said.

A nurse was seen leading the heavily pregnant woman from the washroom.

A medical source at the hospital said the babies from the neonatal unit were taken to the San Fernando Teaching Hospital prior to the blackout.

A doctor at the hospital said the electricity supply has been giving problems for the past two days. 

"Secretaries could not work because the computers kept tripping off and the generator was not kicking in so they decided to shut everything down and work on the problem," he said.

Contacted for comment, Medical Director Dr Albert Persaud said the blackout was scheduled.

"We are replacing the transformer but service is going on as usual despite the electricity," Persaud said. He added that only part of the hospital was affected.  He added that electricity was expected to be restored by 5 pm. However, during the Guardian's tour of the facility, the entire hospital appeared to be totally engulfed in darkness.

Chief Executive Officer of the Southwest Regional Health Authority Keith McDonald could not be reached for comment as calls to his cellular phone went unanswered.

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh also could not be reached for comment.

by Radhica De Silva