Read how solar mission is solving the healthcare problems of rural India
India’s rural healthcare needs a significant upgrade. And given the local infrastructural challenges the battle seems tough. In Chhatisgarh, the solar-powered healthcare centres are attempting to build a ‘healthy’ future by overcoming the challenge of power deficiency. A study funded by a non-government organization Oxfam has found that solar-powered PHCs could significantly improve in-patient services, out-patient services, emergency care, delivery services and laboratory services in rural India. The study evaluated 147 PHCs across 15 districts in Chhatisgarh state. This included 83 centres with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Is Chhatisgarh power deficient?
No. In fact, the study noted that Chhatisgarh is a power surplus state. But one-third of PHCs in Chhattisgarh are either un-electrified or without regular power supply.
Improvement in healthcare
The study found that solar-powered PHCs admitted over 50 percent more patients and also conducted almost twice the number of child deliveries in a month compared to PHCs without a solar power system. Over 90 percent PHCs reported power cuts during peak operating hours and thirty percent PHCs experienced power cuts in the evening. More than 21 percent PHCs reported damage in medical equipments due to voltage fluctuations.
Hospitals getting solar power
The Chhattisgarh State Renewable Energy Development Agency (CREDA) installed off-grid solar PV (photovoltaic) rooftop systems across 570 PHCs in the state between 2012-2016. The solar-powered PHCs are able to operate cold chain, store vaccines and drugs, and operate newborn care equipment more efficiently. A solar PV system provides 3-4 hours of backup electricity for a PHC. Also, solar is not simply an effective backup generation system but also a potential primary mode of power supply. Experts suggest that priority should be given to power-deficit PHCs when installing solar power. The PHCs that provide 24x7 services shall especially be take care of.
The study revealed 90 percent of the solar-powered PHCs reported cost savings from using solar PV systems over diesel generators. The diesel power costs Rs 24-26 per kWh (kilowatt hour), the solar battery costs around Rs 12-14 per kWh.
Solar ambitions: Tough for India!
India has set a solar rooftop target of 40,000MW by 2022, but it has not even touched 2,000MW yet.
Increased access to healthcare
The study has highlighted that “Higher comfort due to better lighting and running fans in the solar PHCs has increased patients’ willingness to get admitted”. The results of the study could be significant, especially for India, as a large number of PHCs have unreliable power supply or have no access to electricity at all, which affects diagnostic and treatment services, reduces hours of operation to daytime, and forces patients to travel more in search of better healthcare services.