Gulu Hospital Struggles to Treat Patients in ICU Over Power Outage

Dr. Paska Apiyo, the In-charge of the Covid-19 Treatment Unit (CTU) at GRRH told URN that the late Dr. Arach had been admitted at the unit for treatment for over a week but the hospital ran short of oxygen due to power outages that was being experienced within Gulu City for at least two days which grounded the generation of oxygen.
One of the COVID -19 patients undergoing treatment at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital -Photo by Jesse Johnson James

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Gulu Regional Referral Hospital is struggling to save the lives of patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) due to inconsistent power supply and lack of oxygen.

Gulu City has been experiencing persistent power outages since 2013, which has greatly affected the operations of the oxygen power plant which is key in saving the lives of patients in the ICU.   

On Sunday night, the hospital lost its long-serving senior paediatrician, Dr Milly Grace Arach to covid-19 due to a shortage of oxygen resulting from power blackouts.   

Dr Paska Apiyo, the In-charge of the Covid-19 Treatment Unit, says that the deceased had been admitted to the unit for treatment for over a week but the hospital ran short of oxygen due to power outages that were being experienced within Gulu City for two days which grounded the generation of oxygen.   

Dr Apiyo explained that the hospital had no options but to transfer Arach to Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, but unfortunately, she breathed her last around Bombo before reaching the destination.   While on transit the late Dr Arach was getting oxygen from a cylinder but it got finished along the way. 

Dr Apiyo heavily blamed the death on the power outage which affected the generation and supply of oxygen for patients in the ICU which included the late Dr Arach.   

She fears that the persistent power outages and inadequate supply will cost more lives if the challenges are not addressed expeditiously. 

James Elima, the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital Director added that except for regular power outages, the hospital requires a three-phase power transformer to adequately supply power for its essential machines but they are incapacitated to have it installed.

He explained that due to being cash-strapped, the hospital is currently mobilizing support from well-wishers to purchase a power generator that can run all its machines. 

Elima disclosed that Gulu Regional Referral Hospital has now turned to the Catholic-owned St Mary`s Hospital Lacor for oxygen yet the facility also has an overwhelming number of patients that require oxygen.   

As of Monday, Gulu Regional Referral Hospital was having 15 COVID-19 patients under the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  

Each patient in ICU currently is consuming between 60 to 80 litres of oxygen per minute, this is much higher than patients with other illnesses who consume averagely only one to five litres per minute.   

However, the hospital administration says that the oxygen generating plant which was installed several years ago has also been used up and is on the verge of breaking down due to too much demand currently because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

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Gulu Regional Referral Hospital receives an overwhelming number of patients from the eight districts of Acholi, parts of West Nile and the Lango Sub Region.   

Last month over 4, over 000 aggrieved Gulu City residents and more than 4,000 business community petitioned the office of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni over the persistent power outages in the Northern Region noting that it has not only affected businesses but also led to the loss of lives.   

Benson Ongom, one of the petitioners said that the inconsistent power supplies in Gulu City has affected the smooth running of businesses, posed insecurity, and caused the destruction of properties and critical installations such as the oxygen plant since 2013.  

Ziria Tibalwa Waako, the Chief Executive Officer for Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) attributed inconsistent and inadequate power supply in Northern Uganda to having only a one-way grid supply from Tororo which runs on only 33 KV and also old colonial lines. 

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Last week while donating three oxygen concentrators to Gulu Regional Hospital, the Members of Parliament for Bardege-Layibi division in Gulu City, Ojara Martin Mapenduzi and Anthony Akol of Kilak North in Amuru district rallied everyone to support the hospital with equipment to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic since the government had not planned for the second wave.


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More than six health workers have succumbed to COVID-19 in Acholi in the last two months.

The cumulative COVID-19 deaths in Acholi Sub Region since March 2021 stands at 64.