Electrical expertise in Uganda


Uganda, 2006

Sisters Anatolia and Cabrini, Daughters of Mary, who now run Kitovu Hospital, are pictured right with Henry Lumbega and Willie Roche Willie Roche works at the Great Island Power Generating Station in Wexford, Ireland. When he was first asked to take on the upgrading of the electrical installation at Kitovu Hospital in Uganda he was given a one-day briefing on Uganda and a two-day course in project planning.

He recalls: "I discovered from the briefing that the Ugandan Electricity Board (UEB) could only supply electricity to the hospital for twelve hours most days, usually during daylight hours. So the operation of a backup diesel generator was essential for the hospital to function. The hospital is located close to the Equator and as such has twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of dark­ness 365 days a year, so the backup diesel generator is very important."

Before long he was bumping along the main highway towards Masaka, which lies on the route from Kampala to the Rwandan border. By now he knew that the hospital had a capacity of 250 beds. Services include casualty, surgical, maternity and paediatric departments. It also pro­vides treatment facilities for HIV/AIDS and malaria patients.

He carried out an initial inspection of the earthing system. This was of great concern to the hospital management, because personnel were receiving electric shocks from equipment throughout the hospital complex.

"Following a number of tests I discovered that some earth rods had rusted out and some earth cables were broken. The other problem I had to try to resolve was to balance the loads over the three-phase system, because I found two phases carrying most of the load.

"I prepared and completed a work programme with the help of the hospital electrician, Mr Henry Lumbega, to repair the earth system and to redistribute the loads at the hospital over the three-phase system.

"Before leaving for home after four weeks I made a number of recom­mendations in a report to the Hospital Board of Management. These included:

  • The employment of a maintenance team to include the hospital electrician, a trainee electrician, plumber/welder and a general worker to plaster and paint.
  • Installation of a new 415 V distribution board.
  • Installation of a 10 KVA generator at the theatre block for emergency medical operations.
  • Installation of a 40 KVA generator as a backup to the 115 KVA main generator.
  • Provide training in good electrical installation practice."

A few months later he was back at the hospital to install a new 415 V distribution board, which enabled sections of the hospital to be isolated for work, load shedding and to balance the load over the three-phase system. The €8,000 cost of the distribution board was funded from Ireland by Electric Aid.

He was delighted to see that the new maintenance team was operational at this time and great experience was gained by the team in the construction and commissioning of the 415V distribution board.

Two years later he was in Uganda again. This time he installed the 10 KVA generator in the theatre block and supervised the rewiring of the building. This work also gave the maintenance team some good experience.

The work cost €9,000, which was raised by a number of fund-raising events in both Wexford and Dublin. This small generator became the only back-up supply when the main diesel generator was out of service for twelve weeks while awaiting spare parts.

As the world entered a new millennium, Willie was still planning further work for Kitovu Hospital. In September 2001 he returned to Uganda with light fittings supplied by a local electrical wholesaler. He set about a programme of replacing existing light fittings with low energy fittings which resulted in a saving of €3,500 per year on UEB bills and on diesel for the generator.

With great satisfaction he says: "The final recommendation was completed when I installed a 40 KVA generator costing €15,000. Once again Electric Aid donated €8,000 and the remaining €7,000 was raised from fund-raising events. The 40 KVA is run during the day when the demand is lower and the 115 KVA run in the evening. This has provided a saving in diesel costs of €350 a month.

"Before returning home I was asked to undertake site visits to evaluate a lighting system for the hospital’s wards at night, to be fed by a solar panel inverter. The lighting system was installed by the maintenance team in January 2005 in two wards and when funding becomes available it will be extended to all wards.

"Apart from the great deal of satisfaction I gained from this project, I felt that I was privileged to be able to make a contribution in an area where help and advice were sorely needed."