No expertise to fix equipment

Nima | Gelephu

It’s peak summer and the temperature in Gelephu hovers around 30 degrees Celsius. At the central regional referral hospital, two of the 34 air conditioners (Variable refrigerant flow) are blowing hot, instead of cold air to the medical and surgical wards.

Inside, patients, attendants and nurses are sweating even under the fans after the two air conditioners became non-functional. One of the surgical wards that accommodate six patients is almost empty. The ward is located right above the outdoor-condensing unit that releases hot air directly to the room.

“We couldn’t use this ward because it is on the side of direct sunshine. Hot air from the AC rooms comes here directly,” said one of the nurses. “Patient’s comfort is a must in the ward but it is not possible.”

The nurse added that the problem existed since the hospital was shifted to the new block and concerned officials are aware of the problem. “However, nothing is being done to date,” she said.

There are over 12 wards with the capacity to accommodate five to six patients. Medical, surgical, audiology room, nurse station, post-operative rooms, among others are without proper air conditioning systems.

A clinical nurse, Sangay Tenzin said the nurse duty room is not safe and patient’s privacy compromised without a proper duty station. “Only two nurses would be on night shifts and we would never know what would happen with the patient files,” he said. He added that communicating at duty becomes difficult with the sound of fans filling the room.

Medical superintendent Dr Dorji Tshering said the main wards are without air conditioning. “During summer it’s difficult for both staff and patients. The design and planning were done like that,” he said. “Some ACs that broke down in the past couldn’t be fixed so far.”

An engineer with the health infrastructure and development division (HIDD) said the hospital was provided with the annual maintenance budget of over Nu 5 million at least for the periodic servicing.

“The hospital has an annual maintenance contract signed with the principal company of service equipment. But the experts couldn’t come because of the ongoing lockdown,” he said. “The situation is beyond anybody’s control.”

He added that it is a similar situation faced by other referral hospitals. “Machine would break down and it’s liable to get damaged. Once the lockdown opens the problem would be solved,” he said.

HIDD recommended Gelephu hospital management to install split air conditioning to the affected room using an annual maintenance budget.

The general wards are not equipped with AC like any other hospital in the country to cut cost and to reduce running expenditure as per the ministry’s policy and planning, according to HIDD officials.

An attendant from Sershong, Pema Dechen said it’s hot both during day and night. “The fan is on the whole day and makes us feel hotter,” she said.

No technician

Most service equipment like air conditioning, lift systems, among others are specialised at the CRRH. It requires experts from outside even for a minor breakdown and also for the periodic servicing.

Electrical engineer with the hospital, Ugyen Namtruel said most technicians are untrained. “They could only do simple maintenance, and operation of the service equipment like lift,” he said.

He added that installing external AC remains incomplete because they couldn’t get the required material. “For any technical failure we will have to wait for expertise from outside like today,” said Ugyen Namtruel.

Officials from HIDD said the issue concerning the nurse duty station came after shifting to the new hospital. The plan to improve the nurse station couldn’t come through because of lack of budget.

The hospital administration proposed maintenance works to install aluminum partitions for the nurse station, install AC, and soundproofing works, among others to HIDD.