KOCHI: At a time when medical treatments are becoming very costly and going out of the reach of common man, an initiative launched by a group of autorickshaw drivers is proving to be a boon for the needy. Since its inception two years ago, the Auto Brothers Chikilsa Sahaya Sangam (ABCSS) has collected and distributed C 31 lakh to beneficiaries to help them meet their treatment costs.
According to Biju K G, chairman, ABCSS, the initiative was launched as a means to help patients from financially-backwards families. "Ours is a registered organisation. We collect the necessary funds amongst ourselves by organising collection drives. This year we collected around C10 lakh," he said. "The money thus collected is remitted into the accounts of the patients who approach us.
Everything about our functioning is transparent. The cheque is handed over to the beneficiary in the presence of dignitaries like the ministers, MLAs and the MPs," he said. Recently, Transport Minister A K Saseendran handed over a cheque of Rs five lakh to the father of a child who is undergoing treatment for a kidney ailment. "The total amount of the treatment is C25 lakh. We know the amount we have collected is nothing but I think we have managed to put a tiny dent in the huge bill," said Biju. The target age of the patients helped by the Auto Brothers is below 25 years.
"From tiny tots to young adults, many have benefitted from our initiative," he added. The charity work of this group doesn't stop here. Around three years ago, they had launched an ambulance service which, according to Biju, solely runs on the funds sourced by the drivers. "The first year, the service was conducted free. But we didn't find it viable due to escalating fuel cost and maintenance charges. So, we got it attached to the ambulance service of the district administration.
Now, we conduct services as per the financial means of the patient. If the person who hires the ambulance is capable of paying C800, stipulated by the 102 ambulance service, then we charge the person the same. Otherwise, the charge is C500 and below," said Jerry, the ambulance driver. According to him, the money obtained is not enough to cover the maintenance costs and fuel charge.
"We even transport patients to far off places like Wayanad. For such a trip, other ambulance services charge around C10,000 to C15,000. However, we charge around C 6,000 to C8,000. It all depends on the financial capacity of the patient," he said. "To meet the maintenance costs and other charges, we sometimes source money from our Akshaya Fund. The fund is yet again aimed at helping the poor patients," he added.