BENGALURU: Dr Aquinas Edasserya, 66, from Bengaluru, has pitched a tent where no doctor has set foot before — the inaccessible villages of Odisha’s Kalahandi district. Dr Edasserya, from Bengaluru’s St John’s Hospital, has set up a comprehensive rural healthcare programme under the Swasthya Swaraj Society which she founded, providing medical facilities and better nutrition to deprived tribal communities in many villages, and training a cadre of mobile health workers and educators.
She will be awarded the Forum for Medical Ethics Society — Indian Journal of Medical Ethics Award here on Friday, at the World Congress on Bioethics for ethical practice, and improved access to healthcare, and will be the first doctor to get the award.
She runs 24/7 health centres at two locations in Thuamul Rampur block of Kalahandi, which are severely deprived of health facilities. The health centre at Kaniguma village, located in a humble, rented structure, has a dedicated team of five doctors, three nurses and lab technicians from different parts of the country cater to people from more than 150 villages.
The health centre at Kerpai village is in an inaccessible location. The 38 villages of Kerpai and its neighbouring gram panchayats are practically in an area which has not seen medical care before.“We started working in Kalahandi in 2013 and started the centres in 2014. It was known to the world in the 80s and 90s for starvation deaths and frequent droughts. Now the district is doing quite well, but for the tribal dominant blocks. Thuamul Rampur block has more than 82 per cent tribals. The only healthcare available to them is from tribal gurus or healers,” said Dr Edasserya.
Infectious diseases are common here, and malnutrition is rampant, she said. “Since there is no transport infrastructure, there is no access to healthcare. We also do outreach programmes in hard to reach areas, and conduct active screening in pregnant women and children under the age of five, for malaria, anaemia and malnutrition,” she added.
She also trains Swasthya Sathis, who are village women selected by villagers at village meetings, one per village or hamlet. After graduating from St John’s Hospital in MD Medicine, and teaching there for a brief period, she worked in Chamarajanagar for seven to eight years and was convinced that this is where her services were required. “We require Rs 1.3 crore to keep the centres operational and have funding from Tata Trust at the moment. But we would welcome donors. The award of `1 lakh will be used for the health centres,” she said.
5-day World Congress of Bioethics begins today
Bengaluru: What are the obstacles in the way of reproductive autonomy for women? Are we putting children at risk by involving them in clinical research? How can we eliminate organ trafficking and manage risk in transplant surgery? Is technology adding to the success of medicine or jeopardising it in subtle ways? Such issues will be discussed at the 14th World Congress of Bioethics at St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, here from Monday to Friday. This is the first time the World Congress is being organised in India. It is being jointly organised by St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bengaluru, Forum for Medical Ethics Society, Mumbai, Sama-Resource Group for Women and Health, Delhi, and SOCHARA - Society for Community Health Awareness, Research and Action, Bengaluru. The Congress will bring together eminent scientists, researchers, policymakers and health activists among others from 74 countries. More than 850 participants have registered for the event so far.