Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Fury at NIE attitude to diabetic couple’s struggle in the dark

A Londonderry man has described how he was left struggling to inject his disabled wife with vital drugs during a blackout at his home.

Aidan Harvey (62) tried to contact an emergency NIE number to enquire when the supply to his Culmore bungalow might be restored only to be told the line was for people with a serious health problem.

“My wife and I are both diabetic. My wife is partially-sighted and will lose her sight soon,” Mr Harvey told the Belfast Telegraph.

“I have to keep her right with her insulin and checking her blood sugar.”

The power supply to the couple’s home went out at teatime on Wednesday, leaving them without lighting for three hours.

Mr Harvey reported the fault to an automated NIE line, but became frustrated as his wife needed her insulin injection.

“It was taking so long that I phoned back an emergency number because it says if it’s a hazardous incident or there are health reasons to let them know,” he said.

“I explained the situation, that we had health problems. The operator said that it wasn’t a real emergency, and we’d better get off the line as soon as possible because she had to deal with emergency calls.”

A frantic Mr Harvey was left trying to see to his wife’s medical needs in the darkness.

“I was running about with a torch — trying to get blood sugars done with a torch and candles is a heck of a job,” he said.

“We were left in the dark and we couldn’t see. We ate out of a tin with a battery tin opener. It was a hell of a night and my wife was panicking because it’s bad enough with bad eyesight but she’s a nervous person anyway.

“I know faults can happen. I don’t think it’s right people should be sitting in the dark like that.”

SDLP councillor Colum Eastwood said the couple’s treatment was “totally unacceptable”.

He said: “The couple were given no indication as to when the electricity would be back on and were shown no sympathy or support when they explained their predicament.”

A spokeswoman from NIE said: “Around 220 customers in the Culmore Road area of Londonderry were left without power on Wednesday evening, just after 6pm due to a fault on a piece of overhead line equipment.

“NIE engineers responded to the fault immediately and were able to restore power to the majority of the customers by 8.30pm. The remaining customers had their power restored by 9.40pm.

“Cormac McCamphill, NIE customer relations manager, has spoken with Mr Eastwood and the two constituents concerned, and they are all satisfied with the response from NIE.”

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