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02 Jun 2017

Karnataka: How Solar Power is improving healthcare delivery

Solar powered Primary Health Centers

Over 28,000 Primary Health Centers (PHCs) serve as the backbone of rural India's public healthcare.

Despite the vast reach, PHCs do not provide access to quality care due to inadequate staff, finances, equipment, etc.

Another major problem is access to reliable electricity- a key enabler for quality healthcare.

To overcome this problem, Gumballi PHC in Karnataka has deployed solar power to deliver improved healthcare.

In context

Solar powered Primary Health Centers
Pioneering examples of Public Private Partnership

Gumballi PHC

Pioneering examples of Public Private Partnership

In 1996, Karuna Trust (KT), led by Dr. H Sudarshan, took over the reins of Gumballi PHC which is one of the pioneering examples of Public Private Partnership with Karnataka's government.

The PHC offers several healthcare services, including OPD, eye care, labor room, dental care, eye operation theatre, laboratory, and pharmacy, which are beyond what PHCs usually offer.


Poor quality of power supply

With poor quality of energy supply, access to power for performing surgeries in the eye operation theatre, dental clinics, and providing other services was one of the challenges faced by Gumballi PHC.

Patients had to wait for long hours or cancel their appointments during power cuts.

A diesel generator served as backup for the PHC's loads, adding significantly to the center's operational costs.

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SELCO Foundation

SELCO Foundation is an NGO that works with several healthcare organizations across India to leverage decentralized renewable energy to improve the delivery of healthcare services. Systems are designed after assessing current and future usage of centers, geographic/demographic context, and energy efficiency of medical equipment.

60% of monthly power expenses saved

Solar System

60% of monthly power expenses saved

SELCO teamed up with Karuna Trust for designing an optimized 3.2 kW solar power system for Gumballi PHC.

The system provides backup for eye OT, delivery room, dental unit and the core PHC.

After installing the system, the PHC saved 60% of its monthly energy expenses.

More importantly, patients do not suffer anymore as they get timely treatment without waiting or appointment cancellations.

Karuna Trust

Dr. Sudarshan established Karuna Trust in 1986

The foothills of BR Hills in Yellandur Taluk of Karnataka's Chamarajanagar district are home to 20,000 people of a scheduled tribe, the Soliga tribe.

Dr. H Sudarshan opened a small clinic in the region of widespread leprosy in 1980.

He later established Karuna Trust in 1986 which now manages 68 PHCs across India apart from ten solar-powered PHCs in collaboration with SELCO.

Solar energy deployed for PHCs

Other States

Solar energy deployed for PHCs

Many states, including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Tripura, deployed solar energy for PHCs in the past.

However, it is necessary to understand how decentralized power systems could be customized to meet the local energy/healthcare needs to optimize the use of government's limited financial resources.

The advantage of decentralized power provision is not only in improving energy access but also change the way healthcare is delivered.

Public Health System

Deficiencies in public health system

Over 72% of the rural population and 79% of the urban population rely on private hospitals for treatment, according to a 2015 NSSO survey.

People from remote, rural regions have to travel long distances to access private healthcare, and the cost of treatment is four times that of public hospitals.

Despite such factors, people prefer private hospitals, reflecting the deficiencies in public health system.

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