COVID-19: How health centres have been kept lit

Thursday May 28 2020



Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic, believed to have started in the Chinese City of Wuhan, spread its tentacles to Uganda in March, companies and businesses devised means of staying afloat and remaining relevant to their customers.
And, with almost every service provider, including the healthcare system, using Umeme as a utility, questions were bound to arise how they would survive intermittent power supply or no power, cognizant that they have been the epicentre of activity during these turbulent times.

In Busoga Sub-region, for example, Namutumba is one of the districts that endured weeks of power blackouts; but since the Covid-19 induced lockdown started in March, all seems to have got better.
Mr Ronald Seebe, a resident of Namutumba Town Council, on Wednesday said: “Before Covid-19 broke out in the country in March, power used to go off for almost a week, but these days, it is on for most of the time.”

The Namutumba district health officer (DHO), Dr James Kiirya, said he has not witnessed power blackouts at their units during the Covid-19 period.
Mr Mubarak Were, the Jinja regional hospital administrator, said they have not registered any power challenges during the period. “Not really and when there is going to be load-shedding, they have communicated so that we plan our schedules,” he said.

According to Umeme, most referral health facilities, except Mulago National Referral Hospital, do not have dedicated power lines, but instead share with other users in the community in which these facilities are located.
To ensure maximum efficiency during this period, Umeme says it carried out preventive inspections and maintenance on these lines and the supporting substations to enhance their performance.
“We have also made sure that any emerging faults on these lines are prioritised ahead other faults for faster restoration of supply,” Umeme Managing Director, Mr Selestino Babungi, said.
Adding: “Also, the pre-paid meters to health facilities were replenished with credit to ensure continuity of supply without disconnection.”
According to him, the continued investment in the distribution grid has significantly contributed to its stability and reliability.
“For this year, the plan is to invest a further USD80m in substations, line works and expansion of distribution zones and we also aim to convert the remaining 150,000 postpaid customers to pre-paid metering,” he explained.