Nearly 20 leaders from think tanks, research groups, renewable energy companies, industry associations and health care services came together to write an open letter to make a case for solarizing all un-electrified sub-centres in rural India.
The experts pointed out that the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has highlighted several existing systemic gaps in services.
“Over 39,000 sub-centres – the first point of contact between primary health care systems and the community – serving 230 million people in rural India, lack electricity,” the experts wrote in their letter to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the National Centre for Disease Control, the National Health Systems Resource Centre, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the Ministry of Power and Niti Aayog.
This severely impacts their capacity to offer optimal health care to patients, the letter added. It stated that decentralised renewable energy can play a significant role in solving this problem quickly for less than Rs 30 per person in the initial capital expenditure. Recent experience from solarising sub-centres in Chhattisgarh has shown that the service improved significantly with the addition of rooftop PV and batteries, resulting in better healthcare outcomes (especially for maternal and neonatal), protecting sensitive medical equipment and saving money, it added.
They urged the Central and state governments, as well as the international development community to support a four-step intervention, which includes expanding clinic solarisation, ensuring long-term operations, promoting innovation where manufacturers must be incentivised and developing efficient appliances suitable for rural healthcare services.
The experts include Dr Mathew Abraham, director general of Catholic Health Association of India, Upendra Bhatt, co-founder and managing director at cKinetics, Dr Arunabha Ghosh, founder and CEO of Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), Dr Sudarshan H, founder of Karuna Trust, Dr Arvind Kumar, founder trustee of Lung Care Foundation, Shweta Narayan, coordinator at Healthy Energy Initiative (India), Professor D Prabhakaran, executive director of Centre for Chronic Disease Control, Dr Poornima Prabhakaran, deputy director at Centre for Environmental Health, PHFI, Professor Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India, Dr Ravikant Singh, founder of Doctors For You.
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