Solar lamps improve maternal care, despite the unreliability of the grid
More than 30 expecting mothers are admitted to Mother and Child Hospital, a small maternity clinic in Ado Ekiti located in southwest Nigeria, every day. The hospital specializes in maternity services, ranging from antenatal to postnatal care; services that are often unscheduled and required at all hours of the night.
However, the power supply at the hospital is erratic. Dr Oria Adebose, a medical officer at Mother & Child Hospital explains, “In 24 hours, we may have 16 hours of light, at the most. We have power cuts from 6 in the morning up to 1 in the afternoon. It runs for about four hours, till 5 pm, switches off and comes back at midnight. On some days, it does not even last up to 16 hours.”
Nigeria also has the highest maternal mortality rate in the region, second in the world, only to India, so when facilities like Mother and Child Hospital lose power, their clinicians have to figure out how to accommodate unexpected, long gaps in service without jeopardizing patient care.
In July 2017, the hospital decided to purchase solar lamps to reduce the burden of these frequent power cuts and to enable more continuous care, despite periods of darkness. Solar lamps offer refuge to smaller and more remote medical clinics that serve patients after the sun sets, for pre-maternal care, routine check-ups, and even emergency deliveries.
The risks of childbirth can be exacerbated by a lack of access to electricity. Even if a hospital has the expertise and equipment to provide necessary care for a patient, it might not have the electricity to use that equipment or properly see a patient in the dark. Unexpected gaps in electricity access and the ensuing inability to provide care when critically needed can add complexity to the way medical treatment is administered and introduce risk that would be less common in facilities that can continuously see and care for patients without electricity challenges. Mother and Child Hospital chose to invest in off-grid solar-powered solutions to minimize these types of complexities and enable continuity to their day-to-day operations.
“Without light after sunset, a lot of women going into labour at night would have done so in complete darkness, potentially in riskier conditions. Now, as a result of the simple additions of the Sun King solar lighting systems installed at the hospital, there is a significant improvement to the conditions and welfare of the patients, especially during nighttime emergencies.”, says Ms Chioma Agogo, Partnerships Leader for West Africa at Greenlight Planet.
Now, during power cuts, the solar lamps are immediately switched on, enabling most of the clinic’s basic care services to continue, uninterrupted. The hospital’s five out-patient wards often experience a surge of patients in the evenings for antenatal check-ups. Thanks to the additional light provided by the new solar lamps, these night-time check-ups happen faster, and clinicians and patients alike can manoeuvre around the hospital with greater speed and safety.
Mother and Child’s Dr Adebose notes that the addition of solar lamps has allowed nurses to accurately administer drugs at night and to thoroughly clean the hospital’s facilities during early morning hours. “Even when the generator shuts down, we are not caught unaware because the Sun King lamps are on standby”, adds Adebose.