Solar-powered primary healthcare centres (PHCs) in Chattisgarh admitted over 50 per cent more patients and conducted almost twice the number of child deliveries in a month compared to power-deficit PHCs without a solar power system, says a study.Also, solar-powered PHCs could significantly improve in-patient and out-patient services, emergency care and delivery services in rural India, said the study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) on Thursday.
Funded by Oxfam India, the study basically evaluated the role of electricity access on health outcomes in rural Chhattisgarh.
“The results establishes a strong correlation between sustainable development goals, focusing on good health and well-being (Goal 3), and focusing on affordable and clean energy (Goal 7),” it said.
The CEEW study is based on an evaluation of 147 PHCs, including 83 having solar photovoltaic (PV) systems across 15 districts in Chhattisgarh.
Despite being a power surplus state, one-third of the PHCs in Chhattisgarh are either un-electrified or without regular power supply. About 90 per cent of PHCs reported power cuts during peak operating hours.
One-third of the PHCs experienced power cuts in the evening. More than 21 per cent of the PHCs reported damage of medical equipment due to voltage fluctuations.
“The analysis found that a solar PV system provides three-four hours of backup electricity for a PHC. Also, peak generation from solar PV systems coincides with peak load times for PHCs, 12 p.m.-4 p.m., making solar not simply an effective backup generation system but also a potential primary mode of power supply,” said the study.
It said that higher comfort due to better lighting and running fans in the solar PHCs increased patients’ willingness to get admitted.
“Scaling solar systems across PHCs is in India’s interest as it meets the targets of the National Solar Mission as well as the National Health Mission. In Chhattisgarh, CEEW found that solar provided a reliable power backup to PHCs, especially during peak load hours and after sundown,” said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, CEEW.
According to Ghosh, while installing solar systems, priority should be given to power-deficit PHCs, especially those that have been designated to provide 24×7 services.
“Solar systems for PHCs must also be tailored to local needs and considerations. Other states must also focus on creating robust operations and maintenance services for solar powered PHCs,” she said.
In Chhattisgarh, 90 per cent of the solar powered PHCs reported cost savings from using solar PV systems over diesel generators. Diesel power costs Rs24-26 per kWh while solar plus battery costs around Rs12-14 per kWh.
The ability of solar-powered PHCs to operate cold chain, storing vaccines and drugs, and newborn care equipment also improved significantly in Chhattisgarh.
According to the Rural Health Statistics 2016, India has about 25,000 PHCs. Of the functional PHCs in India, 4.6 per cent are un-electrified, affecting over 38 million rural households depending on these healthcare facilities.