Editor's Comment

Act, don’t wait for directive

WE ARE facing another year when the country has not been spared by the effects of climate change.
Among the effects that climate change has resulted in is the falling water levels at the country’s largest power generation station, the Kariba Dam.
With such low water levels, it is inevitable that the remaining water levels be preserved by load shedding to prevent a complete shutdown of the power generation machinery at the dam.
While this may have its own negative consequences on the nation as a whole, it is imperative that such a measure be taken.
We are well aware that the current load shedding and the low water supply, in some areas, is impacting negatively on sectors such as mines, agriculture, both small and large-scale businesses and even institutions such as hospitals may not be spared.
While some of the sectors can endure the load shedding, there are those, like health institutions, in particular, which should be spared from the load shedding because of the nature of activities they carry out.
Some of these health institutions solely depend on power supply from Zesco and they have no alternative sources of energy like generators.
Health institutions are meant to save lives and they depend on power supply to carry out a number of procedures or other processes in the course of providing health care to patients.
Even some of the procedures such as routine medical examination, like those requested for by employers-to-be, are often done by machinery that depends on power supply.
Some of the sections in hospitals, for example, like the maternity wing, in particular, the part that houses the premature babies, are dependent on power supply and any shortage in the supply can be disastrous.
Hospitals also house some patients in the Intensive Care Unit who need to have power supply to sustain them. Some of them are on life support machines that depend on power supply to keep running and any disturbance in supply can result in fatalities.
Vaccines and some medications need to be stored under a certain temperature with the help of power supply.
This means that the absence of that supply is bound to render them ineffective or impotent.
The theatre is also another sector that should not be blacked out because of load shedding or else emergency tasks involving life cannot be undertaken.
It is encouraging that despite the challenges the nation is facing, President Edgar Lungu has directed the Ministry of Energy to prioritise power supply to hospitals and health centres.
The President, who was speaking during his address on the State of the Nation, said he was aware that some health institutions were going without power supply, a necessity in the management of patients.
The President wondered how the health personnel were managing to look after patients in the absence of water and power supply, which are both necessities in the management of patients.
The directive has, therefore, come at an opportune time and we believe we will not see any health institution being load-shed.
However, hospitals, in conjunction with their line ministry, should also not be content with the intervention by the President.
There are times when the unexpected happens and the whole nation is plunged into darkness.
We urge hospital authorities to plan for such times by putting in place measures that will form as back-up power supply, such as generators, to save lives during such times.
On the whole, however, we do not expect the Ministry of Energy and Zesco to only act after a Presidential directive. Our view is that all ministries and institutions charged with such important responsibilities should respond to issues in an appropriate manner without being reminded or directed.
Did the ministry and Zesco have to wait for the directive to understand that load-shedding health facilities could lead to fatalities?
Zesco should be proactive and so should the ministry.

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