BENGALURU: Every morning at 8 am, Dr Sunil Kumar Hebbi takes his car out for duty - not to head to a clinic or hospital, but to take his mobile clinic to treat patients in their homes. For the past decade, 37-year-old Dr Hebbi, a resident of Malleswaram, has been running the mobile clinic through his Matru Siri Foundation to treat the poor free of charge. But the current health crisis has demanded more of his time, and he’s been on double duty.
During the day, he treats patients through his mobile clinic, and since the first week of April, he has been working the night shift at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike Covid Care Centre in Goripalya. He manages to catch some sleep between 1-3pm and between midnight and early morning after finishing rounds at the CCC. Born and raised in Vijayapura, Dr Hebbi worked at BGS Hospital in Bengaluru for several years before quitting in 2011 to devote his attention to the mobile clinic, with just two full-timers – himself and a nurse. An assistant doctor and another nurse volunteer with him.
He raised Rs 2 lakh through donations from close associates to equip his sedan with an ECG machine, oxygen concentrator and cylinder, medicines for common illnesses such as cold, cough, and fever. “I generally deal with mild and asymptomatic Covid-19 cases. I first inquire about the patient’s vitals and try my best to offer telemedicine service. If the situation demands it, I drive to the patients’ homes,” Dr Hebbi says. A medical consultation is one thing, but Dr Hebbi gets all kinds of calls and he never really turns anyone away.
Last week, he ended up driving a man to a hospital in Electronics City after an ambulance service said they would charge the man Rs 12,000 to take him to a hospital 3km from his house. Offering free medical service to the poor comes with a huge personal cost, including the loss of a loved family member. “I lost my brother’s son a few days ago to Covid. My family insisted that I stop the mobile clinic, but the cries for help from patients were just unbearable. I had to resume the day after his death,” says Dr Hebbi.
He often treats 10-12 patients a day, sometimes travelling 120km all over the city. “The rise in petrol prices and the high demand for medicines and logistics is making it difficult for me to sustain this model. Although I finalised a deal to buy a second-hand Tempo Traveller, the dealer did not get back to me. I am struggling to raise funds now,” says Dr Hebbi.