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Power cuts 'could threaten patients'

Outages endanger TB ward at Catholic hospital as government bills unpaid

Power cuts 'could threaten patients'
The owner of a video game shop in Lahore waits for a power outage to end reporter, Lahore

June 29, 2011

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An official at a Catholic hospital in the Punjab said yesterday that power cuts plaguing the city could endanger the lives of patients. Ilyas Gill, manager of the tuberculosis program at Bethania Hospital in Sialkot, said the cuts  have been among the worst in the country. “Fresh air is vital for those suffering with tuberculosis, but exhaust fans can’t run without electricity,” he said. “Patients in serious condition have their lives put at risk, as they have to be kept in air-conditioned rooms.” Two electric generators currently support the hospital, the only Catholic facility in Lahore archdiocese, as the city endures 14 hours of load-shedding each day. Bethania’s largest unit for TB treatment caters for 200 outpatients and 60 inpatients daily. Power cuts have also affected patients financially, Gill said. “We have to charge more money for running the generators. The direct impact is on in-patients who are already paying 4,000 rupees (US$46.48) for weekly treatment,” he said. “We are helpless, as the power cuts increase the cost involved in running the facility.” Nearly all Church-run offices have installed generators or use UBS backups amid a power crisis that has gripped the country for four years. Blackout periods have ranged between 12 and 15 hours in some cities, with local news channels yesterday airing footage of family members fanning their relatives in government-run hospitals. Violence broke out in several parts of the country last week as hundreds protested against repeated two- and three-hour outages. Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar said last month that up to nine power-generating projects have been added to the national power grid, while some new power plants are preparing test runs. He added that several private organizations and government departments, including the prime minister’s secretariat, have outstanding power bills worth billions of rupees.
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