Thu, 25 Jul 2024

 

IBEDC disconnects UCH thrice in one month over N495m debt
 
By: Abara Blessing Oluchi
Mon, 25 Mar 2024   ||   Nigeria,
 

The University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, is currently at loggerhead with the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), over a N495m electricity debt accumulated over three years, Channels Television can authoritatively report.

The debt, our correspondent gathered, led to IBEDC pulling the plug on power supply to the hospital thrice within a space of three months, between February and March 2024.

With a staff strength of over 6,000 at full capacity, a bed space of 1,445, and 13 schools on its campus, it is little wonder that the power cuts have become a source of worry.

A crucial institution saddled with the safety of lives has been left to grapple with an epileptic or non-existent power supply.

A visit to the hospital exposed the hardship patients, their relatives, and medical staff alike have to undergo as a result of constant power cuts.

Some relatives of patients on admission told our correspondent, off camera, that the situation has worsened to the extent of them having to buy sachets of water to clean their appliances.

A few medical officials who spoke with our correspondent also decried the negative impact of electricity outages on activities at the facility.

According to them, areas such as diagnostic services and other critical functions are hampered when there is no power supply. They added that it has become a huge challenge for the hospital to get basic needs such as water and other serious life-saving equipment such as ventilators to function properly.

“At times like this, we depend on generators which come on for a few hours in just selected parts of the hospital,” one of the sources who spoke with our correspondent recounted.

Another source told Channels Television, that the UCH management allegedly spends about N160m monthly on diesel to power its numerous generators.

“That truck parked there is one of the trucks that brings in diesel daily. And do you know that the generators are always on even if there is electricity because the target must be met so that the beneficiaries of the over N160 million monthly diesel must chop,” revealed one of the sources, who craved anonymity.

Reacting to the development, the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Prof Abiodun Otegbayo, disclosed that the hospital has, so far, acquired more than 70 generators, a testament to its struggle with power supply over the years.

He, however, said an energy committee has been set up to find lasting solutions to the challenges.

“The tariff that they are charging is like we are a commercial centre. We are not making much money here. We are a social service provider, and that is why we can’t bill most of our patients the way we would have loved to bill them.

“We don’t generate enough funds to meet up with the kind of tariff IBEDC gives us. And as you say we have not been able to pay; I can tell you that we have paid more than 90 per cent of the bills sent to us. Even this year- we have paid for January and February. But the bone of contention is the old bill,” he said.

On his part, the energy committee chairman, Dr. Micheal Obaro, told Channels Television, that the committee’s terms of reference include “exploring ways of optimising power usage within the premises of UCH. This includes measures to reduce the consumption of energy by the hospital.

“We respect the fact that IBEDC has been supplying us with power, and we know it is not free. UCH knows her responsibility in trying to maintain a good relationship with the distribution company. But because of the backlog of money that we are yet to pay, IBEDC has disconnected us three times this year alone,” he said.

He added that efforts are underway to find ways of paying the outstanding owed by both the UCH and the College of Medicine which is under the University of Ibadan.

“They are going to raise funds. An energy committee has also been set up to look into the ways we consume energy. They are going to reach out to people with social capital. Philanthropists will also be brought in to support and bring in donations as they have been doing.

“You need to know that the university teaching hospital harbours other portions such as the university teaching hospital at the University of Ibadan. So, everyone is working together to resolve it. It is not just the UCH owing that much, other arms under us are also owing part of the bill,” he said.

On its part, IBEDC noted that they had to disconnect UCH repeatedly because the hospital had failed to come up with a plan to defray the outstanding debt of N495m.

The Chief Key Accounts Officer at IBEDC, Johnson Tinuoye, called on UCH to settle its outstanding debt because the disco pays for every kilowatt of electricity distributed.

He said, “UCH is on Band A, and they get a 24-hour power supply. Their supply is top-notch. And they are the only customer in that category that will owe that amount of money, and we would leave their supply because we try to understand their nature of work.

“And for every kilowatt of light, every of our customers gets, we pay for it. The downside is that when we don’t pay; we are charged interest. We pay about 26 per cent on outstanding (payments). What UCH does is to pay what they want, whenever they want, and how they want. Of course, we have shown understanding because we know that the role UCH plays is huge, and we don’t want to upset anybody.

But we are in the market to survive.

“And if we must continue to stay in business, people and institutions like UCH must pay.

“We are not saying UCH should pay everything but it should give us a clear plan on how to pay this money because it is market money. Despite our plea to the hospital, all seems to be falling on deaf ears.

“Anytime we disconnect them, they appeal to our conscience, and of course we reconnect them but they do not pay us. What they only pay is the current charges. The bill we give to them, they pay on that bill and sometimes they don’t pay the exact amount. So, what they do is to pay the current charge but they have not touched the outstanding.”

Channels Television also gathered that some allowances such as the one meant for the purchase of nurses; uniforms, have allegedly been withheld for some time.

Some nurses who spoke off camera said the UCH management had pleaded with the nurses that the money was being pooled to pay the electricity bills. The hospital boasts of nothing less than between 2000-3000 nurses.

“They haven’t paid us uniform allowances for the past five years. They have paid for N2019 so far. They pay N20,000 per year,” one of the nurses said.

Although the management denied diverting allowances for other purposes, it confirmed that the hospital has not been paying uniform allowances for some time.

The Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee, UCH, Dr. Abiodun Adeoye, said “It is a punishable offence to divert funds meant for a particular purpose to another; we do not do that here at UCH.

“When you are talking about allowances for nurses’ uniforms, it has to be backed up by fund releases from the federal government. Yes, the nurses are being owed some months’ allowances, but efforts are underway to make sure they are being paid the backlogs which were inherited from the past administration,” he said.

Adeoye, however, said efforts were underway to find a lasting solution to the problem.

He, however, declined to comment on the allegation that the hospital spends N160 million monthly on diesel and that there was a cabal behind the act.

 

 

 

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