DIBRUGARH, Oct 6 - For the people living in the char areas of the mighty Brahmaputra, health services had always been a fundamental need until the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES) came up with the concept of running Boat Clinics to provide medical services in 2004-2005.
Since then, the Boat Clinic has been rendering yeomen service to the underprivileged and marooned people, particularly the women and children.
As of today, the Boat Clinic in Dibrugarh extends health services to approximately a thousand patients every month. The Boat Clinic, equipped with OPD, mini laboratory and pharmacies, has around 15 staff, two medical officers, three nurses, one pharmacist, one laboratory technician, three community workers and four boat crew.
The Boat Clinic of Dibrugarh named ‘Akha’ is also described as ‘a ship of hope in a valley of flood’. This Boat Clinic has now been installed with solar panels on its roof for round-the-clock power supply.
Earlier, the boats and medical equipments on them were running on generators. Irregular power supply led to vaccines spoilage, interruptions in the use of essential medical and diagnostic devices and lack of even the most basic lighting and communications for maternal delivery and emergency procedures.
In view of these shortcomings, SELCO Foundation in partnership with C-NES, Envo Business Solution and TATA Trusts designed the solar energy solution for the Dibrugarh Boat Clinic as also for the Boat Clinics in Tinsukia, Dhemaji and Jorhat among the 15 Boat Clinics in the State.
All medical equipments, lights, fans, audio-visual devices etc are now solar powered. This has facilitated better diagnosis, reduction in dependence on kerosene and better quality of life for the staff.
“The project took into consideration the need and utility hours of various energy– driven equipments like fans, lights, incubator, laboratory equipments and audio-visual devices. An optimum solar system was designed keeping in consideration usage hours, criticality of the equipments, space available on the boat for the panels, and most importantly, the efficiency of appliances in the boat,” Kakali Kalita, Outreach Coordinator of SELCO Foundation told The Assam Tribune.
Dr Bhaben Chandra Bora, one of the medical officers of the Boat Clinic said that due to lack of power supply earlier, extending medical services was difficult especially when patients were brought to the Boat Clinic late in the night. Movement inside the boat was also a great risk, he said.
The Dibrugarh Boat Clinic reaches out to around 8,000 people in some 25 villages in the char areas. Some of the villages include Mesaki, Loukiali, Mohannamukh, Udaipur, Ram Singh, Seraali, Singapur, Charkalia, Bishnupur, Vaishali, Seriali, Sakia, Dhadia Kuli Gaon, Sari Suti Tengabari, Karmi Suk, Kopita, Romai and Aichung.
Significantly, it may perhaps not be out of place to mention here that the mobile network is almost nil in these areas.