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Solar to Power Operating Rooms Across Africa

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Kids Operating Room and partners Smile Train are excited to announce an ambitious plan to reduce the cost and carbon footprint of surgery, while increasing quality and patient safety, across low- and middle-income countries, starting in Africa.

Following a successful four-month solar panel pilot program at our Centre for Global Operations in Dundee, Scotland, we are now moving forward to provide sustainable, reliable power to operating theatres across Africa - where the main power grid is often unreliable, making power outages common.

“This initiative aims to give consistent and reliable power to medical professionals in the operating room that will enhance patient care and safety while protecting much needed medical equipment that can be damaged when there’s a voltage irregularity with the main power grid,” said Susannah Schaefer, President, and Chief Executive Officer at Smile Train. “We work closely with the team at KidsOR on hospital infrastructure projects and we asked them if they could develop a solution to this significant, multifaceted problem.”

Power cuts in African hospitals severely impact patient care. Many hospitals suffer from hundreds of hours worth of power outage each month,  lasting, in some instances, for several days at a time. While working at full capacity, operating rooms are also a significant source of greenhouse gas production for hospitals.

To help tackle the challenge, we will begin implementing stand-alone solar battery support systems in paediatric operating rooms in Africa as early as next year. Solar panels will be mounted onto the roofs of the facility we're working in. The panel will charge a battery unit, which has capacity to power an entire Operating Room continually during daylight and for a further six hours after sunset.

On the challenge of developing a surgery specific power system, KidsOR co-founder Garreth said: “Our team are experts at working in remote and challenging environments and we approached this with a view that we had to provide seamless power supply to the operating rooms of even the most remote hospitals.

“Our solution is a combination of solar systems with some new developments, some of which are so unique that we 3D print them for each project. We can now deploy a power unit that removes reliance on the national grid, requires no diesel generator back-up, reduces the carbon footprint of each operation, increases patient safety and integrates high tech activities like anaesthetic gas scavenging to even the world’s most remote hospital.

The shared model will strengthen local healthcare systems and give local doctors the tools and skills required to care for the people of their communities.

“This unique solar surgery system makes the best possible care available to the most vulnerable and remote child. While improving health today, this partnership will also make sure we aren’t contributing to the climate change burdens of tomorrow" Garreth added.

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