COVID-19 response: Health care facilities worldwide need all the help they can get
As the coronavirus continues to put pressure on global health care systems, and governments scramble to keep their citizens safe, the requirement for world-class, efficient and resourced facilities has never been more apparent.
The UK has converted stadiums and arenas to makeshift health care centres, and has called upon a consortium of manufacturers — including Airbus, Dyson and Rolls-Royce — to help produce tens of thousands of ventilator machines to meet the surge in demand.
Other nations are also looking to innovative and agile solutions that will hopefully result in a lower mortality rate during this pandemic. But the coronavirus is not the only global health care crisis. An estimated one billion people rely on health care facilities without electricity supply.
While this issue seems to take a back seat as tier-one nations battle against a global pandemic, it is critical to address it now more than ever.
In February, Bill Gates spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting, and stated the impact of coronavirus could be “very, very dramatic”, particularly if it spreads to developing countries where health care infrastructure is vulnerable.
Cut-off from power
A recent study analysing more than 121,000 health facilities, in 46 low and middle-income countries, found that almost 60 per cent of them lacked access to reliable electricity. Rural communities are at a disadvantage as access to the grid is less likely than those in urban communities. But even grid-connected health care facilities still suffer frequent power outages in developing countries.
Resilient and reliable energy supply is essential to delivering both basic and modern health care services. From empowering general practitioners and clinical services to work after sundown, to powering laboratory equipment, incubators, intensive care units and the appropriate storage of vaccines, blood work and medications.
Electricity is the pivotal enabler to providing dependable health care. Off-grid renewable energy solutions, such as the hybridisation of small wind, solar and battery storage, represent a clean, efficient, rapidly deployable and reliable option to connect health care facilities without access, or unreliable access, to the grid. It gives facilities stability, resilience and security to manage their own energy supply.
The solution is available. So how do we facilitate the connection of energy and health care, reduce health care poverty, and enable global health care equality? Collaboration, communication and execution across all fronts, from private to public, must be encouraged and promoted.
Developing nation governments must ensure the electrification of rural health care facilities is a priority and must be executed with speed in the coming years to securitise these communities, which currently do not have access to reliable health care, due to the lack of electricity.
Utilities and developers must consider the innovative solutions available, outside of the traditional, to power these communities and enable health care equality for those within their communities.
And renewable technology companies whose solutions bring affordable and reliable energy access to communities and health care facilities through off-grid energy, must reach out and be heard in these markets. They need to find the right platform and market entry to ensure governments, utilities, developers and communities are aware of the technology available today.
The energy transition to clean, renewable and off-grid solutions in developing countries will revolutionise communities and economies. The health care system will be a key indicator of positive transformation in years to come, as we lift countries out of health care poverty by enabling energy access for all.
— Iain Munro is Strategy Director at Ryse Energy.