Vaccines for routine immunisation, including new deliveries received last week, risk going waste at the Keta Municipal Health Directorate because the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has disconnected power supply to the facility for the non-payment of bills.
This is in spite of the government classifying some health facilities, including vaccine stores, operating theatres, medical laboratories, designated pharmacies and consulting rooms, as essential and strategic where power outage must not occur.
The Volta Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Kwasi Djokoto, has confirmed the incident to the Daily Graphic and said he was engaging the power distributor to restore power.
A source at the Keta Municipal Health Directorate told the Daily Graphic yesterday that it had been more than 24 hours since power was cut to the directorate, which also hosts the vaccine stores that serve all the health facilities in the area.
The source explained that after 24 hours, the vaccines would begin to go waste.
The directorate does not have a standby generator.
The vaccines at risk of going waste in include between 800 and more than 2,200 doses of BCG, OPV (polio), PCV (Pneumonia) and Penta and Rota (diarrhoea).
Others are measles, meningitis, malaria, tetanus and yellow fever vaccines.
The source added that new stocks of vaccines for the three childhood diseases of which the municipality took delivery last week were part of the vaccines that risked going waste.
A letter dated August 15, 2018 which the Ghana Health Service sent to all regional directors of Health Services, a copy of which the Daily Graphic has sighted, communicated the Ministry of Finance’s classification of certain health facilities as strategic which should not suffer power outages.
The letter, referenced “GHS/DGS/G.2”, notified the regional Health directors that after reviewing a list of health facilities for classification as strategic or non-strategic, a strategic facility had been defined by the Ministry of Finance to include any installation that must have electrical power 365/24/7, and that a failure would cause immediate grave danger to lives and property or a national security threat if it failed because it had no electrical power.
It added that also classified as strategic installations, for which they must not suffer electricity cuts, were those that would cause a disruption in mission-critical public services and a reduction or cessation in the operating capacity of designated central medical and research laboratories, designated pharmacies, vaccine stores, blood banks and similar installations.
The classification exempted from the strategic list installations not directly used for patient care, such as bungalows, streetlights and recreational centres.
Before the start of the exercise by the ECG to disconnect indebted facilities and institutions, the Managing Director of the ECG, Samuel Dubik Mahama, had told the Daily Graphic that “conversations are far advanced on critical installations, such as government hospitals, other public health facilities and security installations, on how their debts are to be settled”.
The Keta Municipal Director of Health, Emmanuel Kona, said the payment of electricity bills was made on behalf of the health directorate by the Ministry of Finance, with the last of such payments being made in January this year.
He, therefore, insisted that the disconnection of power to the health directorate was inconsiderate.
When contacted, the Volta Regional Engineer of the ECG, Michael Buabin, confirmed that the Keta Municipal Directorate of Health was disconnected but not the municipal hospital.
He said the ECG was aware that vaccines were kept in a movable refrigerator which could now be shifted to the hospital to preserve the vaccines.
He said the health directorate, which owed the ECG GH¢24,000, often used concerns about vaccines to avoid settling bills with the ECG.
“We are aware the hospital is a sensitive installation and a live-saving area which must have electricity all the times, and for that reason we did not disconnect the hospital,” he added.
The ECG last Monday started a nationwide revenue mobilisation exercise to recover all unpaid bills, amounting to GH¢5.7 billion, from its customers.
The exercise, which is expected to last a month, targets domestic users, businesses, organisations, ministries, departments and state agencies for power consumed from 2022 to February this year.
The exercise has so far led to the disconnection of power to some places of national importance, while forcing many companies and organisations to draw instant cheques to the power distribution company.