PALAKKAD: At a nondescript hospital in Agali, in the tribal hamlet of Attappadi, people wait patiently to see Dr V Narayanan. A paediatrician by specialisation, the 47-year-old doubles up as the physician for the people there.
And the fee is for the patients to decide. Having started serving those in the tribal settlement way back in 2002, he has now come to be called fondly the ‘10-rupee doctor’. The hospital set up under his initiative — the Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission (SVMM) hospital — is known as the ‘10-rupee hospital’.
“I have known Dr Narayanan for 15 years. My husband is suffering from body pain. So I have brought him here. Only `10 is collected as a token fee, and on many occasions, medicines are provided for free,” said Sindhu, of Vayallur, who was at the hospital.
Dr Narayanan says it is difficult to effect a change in the whole of the tribal belt of Attappadi for want of adequate resources.
“Over the years, we have developed a bond between the Mission and the tribal people. Sometimes, those from interior settlements arrive and ask me to advise some members of the family to take tablets for tuberculosis. As they were large-sized tablets, the tribal elders refuse to take them. But when we admit them to the hospital here, they take the medicines regularly and thus we have been able to prevent its spread,” he says.
A Kollam native, he began conducting medical camps in Attappadi in August 2002.
“As the patients increased, I started outpatient clinics from June 13, 2003. When the patients swelled to around 50 per day, we decided to construct a hospital. In June 5, 2006, the Swami Vivekananda Mission Hospital was inaugurated,” he says.
There were no paediatricians in the area when he arrived, the situation changing only in the past six years.
“I took the first baby born to a tribal woman through a Caesarean section at the Kottathara Tribal Speciality Hospital,” Dr Narayanan recalls.
He and his team have developed a community network in all tribal settlements and have engaged volunteers in every settlement who identify mental health patients and bring them for treatment.
“At least 500 people are being treated for alcoholic de-addiction as well,” says Lakshmanan, a volunteer at Kandiyoor. The SVMM hospital also set up a 50-bed Covid care centre during the past two months.
“I was associated with the Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram during my medical studies. I was inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s words ‘The more we come out and do good to others, the more our hearts will be purified, and God will be in them’,” says Dr Narayanan.
His wife, Dr N Lalitha, is an associate professor at the Foetal Care Centre, PSGIMSR, in Coimbatore. They have two children, Shriram, 14, and Maheswaran, 10.