Bansang Hospital is the farthest hospital from the nation’s infrastructure base, serving the poorest of The Gambia’s population. It is at once the largest as well as the most strained of The Gambia’s tertiary care hospitals, serving a population catchment area of nearly 600,000 people. The original 160 bed Bansang Hospital was built by the British in 1938 when The Gambia was still part of the British Empire. Major renovations and expansions have been done since 1996, in part due to the support and efforts of the British charity group Bansang Hospital Appeal.
The Need: Diesel power generators in the town of Bansang supply electricity to the hospital, but only for limited periods of the day due to fuel cost and supply issues. With rising fuel prices, shrinking hospital budgets and difficult transportation, obtaining fuel for electrical generation is a constant worry. A Solar Power and Battery Backup System can assure 24 hour electricity to the critical care areas of the hospital, eliminating the need for doctors, nurses and staff to work by candle light and ration care due to power outages.
Bansang Hospital began to move to solar power for reliable 24 hour electricity with a small 2 kilowatt power system for the Childrens Ward. A British engineering firm, MITIE Group PLC, took on the challenge to design, plan and install a solar power system to guaranteed constant supplies of oxygen and lighting for night time procedures, emergencies and the dispensing of drugs. Hospital staff noted that the 24 hour supply of electricity had a significant role in reducing the mortality rate, improving the ability of the staff to deliver high quality life saving patient care during the difficult night time shifts. After several years of reliable service however, problems in battery maintenance however, resulted in severe damage to the original batteries. Without functioning batteries, the hospital ward and the neonatal unit with their incubators were once again plunged into darkness.
In 2010, Power Up Gambia with the generous support of Stavros Niarchos Foundation and several long term supporters, provided newer, higher capacity deep cycle lead acid batteries from Victron Energy Blue Power Systems to return the solar power system to full functionality and provide much needed electricity to the children’s ward.
Based on the need for reliable electricity for the whole hospital, and the impressive dedication of the staff of Bansang Hospital in their struggles to meet the needs of their high patient load, Power Up Gambia choose Bansang Hospital to be the next large project for fundraising and installation of a comprehensive solar panel and battery backup system, integrated with the grid diesel generators to provide reliable 24 / 7 electricity a to the entire hospital. This project received the full support of the Bansang Hospital Appeal group and the Bansang Hospital administration, as this energy project would enhance the tremendous work they have performed over the last 18 years to improve health care in the Upper and Central River Region in The Gambia
In a conversation with Anita Smith of Bansang Hospital Appeal, she explained why this project was so important:
“I can’t even begin to tell you what this means to me. I have stood over ailing children with both candles and torches over the years whilst nurses try to find veins, administer oxygen, emergency medication and the list goes on. Electricity will make of a world of difference. It will also raise staff morale. Bansang’s exceptional doctors and nurses, with a combination of care, expertise and compassion, continue to work under very difficult conditions. With PUG’s support and donor generosity 24/7 electricity will soon be a reality. Solar power will save lives.”