Mumbai: Add blood banks and hospitals to the growing list of organizations learning to cope with unexpected power cuts in Maharashtra.
The Indian Red Cross Society Blood Bank, in the industrialized district of Jalgaon, has had to endure 14 hours of power cuts every day. “The blood collection has reduced to 300-400 units from 500-600 units a couple of months ago,” says Dr Rajan Sanchepi, medical officer at the blood bank.
And the power cuts have also kept the blood bank from organizing blood donation camps. “In the last two months, we have only had three-four camps against 10-12 camps a month before summer began,” he adds.
Adds B C Bhartia, president, Nag-Vidharbha Chamber of Commerce: “The power crisis have crippled us totally. There have been instances where members had to dispose the blood stored in their blood banks because of the absence of refrigeration. It’s ultimately the common man who is hit.” Nag-Vidharbha Chamber of Commerce is an apex body consisting of 79 industrial and few medical associations of Vidharbha region in Maharashtra
Maharashtra, the country’s most industrialised state, once had surplus power. With demand for power growing at around 7% per annum, the state, which once marketed adequate power as its key strength, is seeing regualr scheduled and unscheduled load shedding. Large parts of rural Maharshtra sometimes have no power for up to 14 hours.
“The entire medical community here is concerned,” says Dr B K Sharma, an ear, nose and throat surgeon and president of the Indian Medical Association’s Nagpur chapter. “For us, the unpredictable cuts are a life-threatening situation.”
According to Dr Sharma, surgeries are now planned around the load-shedding timings. “But we can’t do this for every case,” he says. “And, in the case of an emergency, smaller outfits just cannot cope, as most of the equipment cannot run on power generated by an inverter.”
Mukund Ganeriwal, a Nagpur-based physician, is bracing himself for a tough time over the next few weeks. He has already had to deal with some difficult situations at his eight-bed nursing home and he fears that as the summer wears on, matters will only get worse.
“We do not have power for over six hours every day. Sometimes, I have to send my patients back from the hospital because we cannot provide optimal care due to the load shedding,” says Dr Ganeriwal. “Often, we worry that we cannot deal with a medical emergency because we are completely dependent on power supply,” he adds.
Even the inverter that Dr Ganeriwal has invested in cannot make up for the power deficit, and like many of his colleagues across the state, he is just waiting for the power situation to get better.
The litany of complaints about power-cuts runs across the state.
Dr C K Dara, director of Shri Balaji Blood Bank and Blood Component at Amaravati, says that the town faces power cuts of around eight hours a day spread over two shifts.
“Some of our equipment, such as the refrigerated centrifuge (used to separate components of blood), can only be operated on power from the grid. If there is an emergency and if somebody needs the results as soon as possible , I will have to turn them down,” he says. Dr Dara has a 8 KVA generator. Meanwhile, the cost of running the blood bank have gone up by at least Rs30,000 in the last two months because of extensive use of the generator.
“Expensive power is better than no power,” counters P Ramesh, managing director of energy division of Feedback Ventures Private Ltd, an advisor to Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd.
Larger healthcare providers have invested in generators to ensure uninterrupted power supply. “We have invested in two generators at a cost of Rs15 lakh each because we cannot afford a power cut of even one minute,” says Dr Anup Marar, director (administration) of Orange City Hospital, a large multi-specialty hospital in Nagpur. The hospital currently has 14 patients on life support, some of whom have been admitted with either cardiac or respiratory failure. The cost of running the hospital has gone up by almost Rs2 lakh every month, says Dr Marar.
Meanwhile, medical stores have not been spared either. “We are considering not ordering some of these temperature-sensitive drugs, such as vaccines,” say Jai Kumar Sobti, proprietor of Sobti Brothers, a medical store in Nagpur.
There is a glimmer of hope though.
State-owned Maharashtra State Power Generation Co Ltd started its Parli plant in Beed on a trial basis from 6 May 2007. It has begun generating 150 MW power. This additional supply, which is being fed into the network, has come after the state’s shortfall shot up to 6,000 MW. The plant’s production is expected to increase to 250 MW in the next three days.