The important issue we addressed is that the majority of the rural population is deprived of timely medical care because of the lack of local doctors in the villages. People also cannot afford the cost of medical treatment. To have a simple medical examination, patients have to travel long distances to reach the urban healthcare centres. This would mean that the patient and/or the attendant will have to lose a day’s wages and spend additional money on transportation, boarding and lodging. These constraints force the population to ignore timely medical attention and it can become too late for a patient’s recovery or even survival. If a patient has a cardiac problem, the first step in diagnosing is to take an ECG. Since there are no qualified doctors in many villages, diagnosing health problems isn’t possible, and without an ECG machine diagnosing cardiac issues is also impossible.
Local health professionals at the Community Health Centres supply the first level of medical care. In this project we are training these health workers to operate trans-telephonic ECG machines. Now when a villager complains of a health problem, as a first step in screening the patients they take the ECG of the patient with the machine. The ECG is then sent to a cardiologist situated in Bangalore. The doctor in Bangalore analyses the ECG. If the patient is diagnosed with a cardiac problem, depending on the location of the patient, they either direct them for medical treatment to designated hospitals in Malaysia or offer surgical treatment at an affordable cost in Bangalore.
Many voluntary organizations conduct regular medical camps so we partnered with them. Lions International, Sanjaynagar club, Bangalore together with Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences and Bharat Scouts and Guides are conducting both Eye Camps and prevention and awareness programs of the H1N1 virus. Our team is joining hands with them and setting up a telephonic ECG facility in one village on the Medical Camp day. The location of this is Amruthur, a village located 120 kilometres from Bangalore. Amruthur also has a Community Health Centre and hence we can offer the use of telephonic ECG to the whole population in and around Amruthur village. The ECGs taken by these machines will be sent to a Tertiary Cardiac Centre in Bangalore, Narayana Hrudayalaya. There they will analyse the ECG free of cost and, if required, will extend medical care to the needy at free or very affordable price.
We had around 500 patients visiting the camp. They were given a general medical check-up with a focus on cardiac issues and eye care. The patients were also given preventive medicine to fight the H1N1 virus.
Because of this project, from now on all the villagers in that area have the ability to get their ECG checked at this Community Health Centre. The cost charged to the patients is Rs. 10.00 per ECG as compared to Rs.200 – 400 in places like Bangalore. [10 Rupees is$0.18 US, 400 Rupees is $7.18 – ed] For this low cost they are getting an expert opinion on their heart condition within five minutes and don’t have to travel a long distance to see an expert. Everything happens right at their doorstep. More importantly, the tertiary hospital has come forward to offer free or subsidized cardiac treatment to these patients who cannot afford to pay for the treatment.
Our team is very happy to be a part of having served over 500 patients and to provide the facility of tele-ECG for many more patients in the future. This will have a great impact on the cardiac health of people in the region.
I’d like to take a moment and acknowledge Mrs. Saroja Naidu. Even at the age of 85 years, she is a source of self-less service, compassion and energy. She is a noble lady, a social worker, the president of the Lions Club of Sanjaynagar, and also the chairperson of Bharat Scouts and Guides, Karnataka.