A desire to electrify the Mole Saint-Nicolas Health Clinic is what sparked the Sigora dream. One year on we re-visit our first client to see what clean, reliable and affordable power has meant for the clinic and its patients.
One year ago Sigora Haiti connected its first ever client: The Mole-Saint-Nicolas Health Clinic. Today, Sigora provides power to more than 850 institutions, businesses, and families, serving a total of around 5,000 people. It would be difficult to overstate energy’s role as an enabler of improved outcomes, be it in health, education, or industry. In Mole, reliable and affordable power has been a catalyst for change across the community, creating opportunities, unleashing innovation, and improving health, safety, and well-being.
On a late afternoon in November, the Mole-Saint-Nicolas Health Clinic Medical Director, Dr. Blaise Pierre Anderson welcomed us in his office, located just off the patient waiting area where half a dozen people were sat.
The improvements brought on by the availability of 24-hour power “have been transformative” he explained. “Before Sigora, we had to work in the dark with flashlights. We had solar panels, but the system couldn’t support our needs. The building also had very bad wiring, and the staff often got shocked when trying to plug-in equipment. It wasn’t good.” He said.
But things are different now. “There is white light everywhere” he said, as he gestured with his hand towards the ceiling “It is much safer for the staff and patients.”
Beyond lighting, reliable electricity has enabled the clinic to connect to the national e-health registry and to digitize the majority of its health records, ultimately saving time and increasing efficiency.
In his office, the Doctor powered on one of the three computers that jostled for limited space on his desk. He demonstrated how the E-Health (E-Cente) system works, and elaborated on the various ways in which the digitized system makes organizing and calling-up patient information more efficient.
Afterwards, he gave us a tour of the facilities, taking care to point out the all-new wiring that Sigora had installed before turning the power on.
Although it was still bright outside and the lights were off, you could hear the gentle hum of the clinic’s three refrigerators, each stocked with essential medicines, vaccines and blood samples.
As we wrapped up the tour, Dr. Anderson stopped and turned to face us. He paused.
“The real result” he said “is improved patient care.”
Energy and Health
Here’s why access to energy is a critical enabler for delivery of health services:
- Lighting including emergency night-time care and lighting for major health-care priorities such as improving maternal and child health and reducing mortality.
- Refrigeration for medicines, blood and vaccines.
- Sterilization facilities – patients in low-resource areas often suffer from surgical-site infections. Incidence for such infections is about nine times higher in developing countries than in developed countries.
- Electricity for simple medical devices such as scanners for broken bones, cancer detection, etc.
- Human capital retention– facilities that have access to electricity not only offer quality health services but also may be better positioned to attract and retain skilled health workers, especially in rural areas. (World Health Organization, 2014).
- Mobile and tele-health applications – electricity also enables mobile and tele-health applications, and facilitates public health education and information.
Furthermore, clean energy access has broader impact on health:
- Modern energy access reduces the use of traditional fossil-fuels such as firewood, kerosene and diesel – according to the World Health Organization(WHO), 4.3 million people a year die prematurely from illnesses attributable to the household air pollution caused by the inefficient use of solid fuels (2012 data) for cooking. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend most of their time engaged with household work. Most common diseases are stroke (34%), ischaemic heart disease (26%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (22%), pneumonia (12%) and lung cancer (6%). The WHO have also found evidence of links between household air pollution and low birth weight, tuberculosis, cataract, nasopharyngeal and laryngeal cancers. In relative terms, deaths related to biomass pollution kill more people than tuberculosis (1.5 million) and malaria (438,000) each year around the world!
- Women and children also spend much of their time harvesting heavy energy resources and thus correspondingly consume their physical energy, producing musculoskeletal disorders and related disability such as neck, head and back injuries, accelerating joint disorders such as arthritis and bringing chronic fatigue. In less secure environments, women and children are at risk of injury and violence during fuel gathering.
- Access to energy and impact on food and water security– affordable and reliable energy access also makes possible, more efficient and cost-effective water pumping for consumption and crop irrigation. Clean drinking water is key for health and adequate crop irrigation translates directly into higher agricultural productivity, increasing food security. Energy poverty has serious impact on health, in particular among women and children. Reliable energy provision at health facilities is a critical enabler of access to many medical technologies and services.
Without access to electricity, many life-saving health-care interventions, prevention of illnesses attributable to household air pollution and collection of heavy cooking fuels, and increase in food and water security measures simply cannot be undertaken.