Flood-affected Kuala Krai hospital forced to operate in the dark

Flood conditions worsen due to the heavy rainfall and overflowing riverbanks of the Kelantan river, December 25, 2014. ― Bernama pic
Flood conditions worsen due to the heavy rainfall and overflowing riverbanks of the Kelantan river, December 25, 2014. ― Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 25 — An anaesthesiologist has had to intubate a baby in the dark to save the child's life after the generator ran out of fuel at Kuala Krai Hospital, today.

This was the harrowing account as described through a WhatsApp message by Dr Adibah Abdullah, a medical officer at the hospital.

The hospital has been running on a generator after electricity supply was cut off around 5pm yesterday, as a result of rapidly rising flood waters in what can only be described as one of the worst floods in Kelantan's history.

It was unclear exactly when the generator ran out of diesel.

In a string of WhatsApp messages updating the worsening condition at the hospital to a friend, Dr Adibah explained that the patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) and critical care unit (CCU) were currently breathing on machines running on battery power.

"If the (electicity) supply is not restored, we will take turns to do manual bagging (manually ventilating a patient with a handheld resuscitation device) ...but for how long?" she wrote.

She said the diesel supply for the generator was promised to be delivered at 8.30pm by helicopter. However, the problem was that the hospital was in total darkness.

"We do not have flare guns but we need lights to show them where we are.

"Kuala Krai has become a huge river, and our hospital is one of the few islands, which unfortunately does not glow in the dark," she wrote.

In a heart-breaking account, Dr Adibah said that helicopters had arrived earlier in the evening but was unable to land due to the unavailability of space.

"The rotor whirled so hard that water splashed from the flooded area, debris flew up, and they said the roofs would detach if the helicopter came closer. The only way to rescue patients is by hoisting them up, to airlift them - like in the movies. From the boats, or from a clearing very near the water edge.

"But we are talking about ill patients here. Those breathing with the help of machines, newborn babies and old people with broken bones," she wrote.

Dr Adibah said the helicopter eventually had to lift without evacuating any of the patients.

Soon after, they were again ordered to prepare for evacuation. Able-bodied patients strong enough to hoist themselves up a helicopter were rounded up.

"The helicopter was whirling above but did not ferry anything. An amphibious vehicle belonging to bomba (Fire and Rescue Department) came. Then it left. The matron announced, 'not moving out, please return to your respective wards.'

"And as the lifts are not functioning (using lifts in an on-off electricity supply situation is dangerous), many patients had to drag themselves up the staircase," she further wrote.

Dr Adibah noted that the patients were devastated when they saw the amphibious vehicle leave, unable to reach them.

She said the only medical assistance to arrive since the crisis started was an army doctor, who reached the hospital several hours ago. — Bernama

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