Two pregnant women died on the night of February 8 when power went out at Mangochi District Hospital while they underwent operations.
According to the Daily times newspaper, the first victim was a 17-year-old Hawa Asani.
“There is a standby generator which supplies power to critical areas such as the theatre, but the person manning the gen set was not around. It took some minutes before the generator started working.
Unfortunately, it was too late for doctors to save the life of the woman,” said the source.
Another victim, 35-year-old Laika Twaibu, was referred to the hospital from Mtimabi Health Centre.
“At Mangochi District Hospital, they gave her a drip. While in labour, we were told that she could not deliver normally, as such, she needed to go for an operation. But the doctors said she could not go to the theatre by that time because there was no electricity,” said Mariam Suwedi, a sister to the deceased.
She said that, while waiting for power, doctors informed them that Twaibu had died.
“We tried to negotiate with the doctors to try to save the baby only, but they said it was impossible because the baby had also died by that time,” she said.
Ministry of Health spokesperson, Joshua Malango, confirmed the development. However, Malango said Twaibu’s death had nothing to do with the power outage.
He indicated that the woman had hypertension and a raptured uterus.
“She arrived very late from the health centre; hence, she died due to heavy bleeding before she was taken to the theatre,” he said.
“The second patient had ectopic pregnancy [pregnancy outside uterus]. By the time we took her to [the] theatre room, power went off and we had to switch on a generator. Unfortunately, the electrician was not available at that time. This forced the management to look for an alternative and the alternative one arrived an hour late,” he said.
News of the deaths shocked Parliament Thursday when Member of Parliament for Mangochi South, Lilian Patel, raised the issue in the House.
Patel asked Minister of Health and Population, Atupele Muluzi, to tell the House what he knew about the deaths.
Muluzi said the ministry was aware of the incident, saying the hospital management had dismissed the negligent electrician, adding that another electrician had been identified to reside within hospital premises.
The minister also said the hospital is in the process of installing a new heavy duty generator which will have an automatic switch and the district health office is working with the district commissioner to recruit electricians and artisans, who will be maintaining such a basic facility.
Dowa West Member of Parliament, Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi, reminded Muluzi of the promise he made at the height of blackouts last year, that health facilities would be prioritised, to which Muluzi said Mangochi District Hospital is prioritised and blackouts are not usual there.
Kusamba Dzonzi also asked about the policy direction that the government is taking in terms of using generators that automatically switch on the moment electricity goes off.
When lawmaker for Dowa North, Enos Chatatanga, asked if government would compensate for the loss of the two lives, Muluzi said the issue is being investigated and he will come up with more information later.