S. Annamalai

An initiative of SHGs proves that quality medical care can be provided to all

MADURAI: An ultra sound scan for Rs. 200; a CT scan for Rs. 800; an MRI scan for Rs. 1,500; child delivery by Caesarean section for Rs. 6,000; consultation fee with one injection is Rs. 30.

The above figures may sound incredible in Madurai where corporatisation of healthcare delivery has happened in a big way. But an initiative of self-help groups has proved that quality healthcare can be provided for the poor at an affordable cost. The SUHAM (Sustainable Healthcare Advancement) Speciality Hospital at Kural Nagar (Jayaraj Nagar) near Vilangudi on the Dindigul highway has come as an answer to common man’s prayers.

Second venture

It is the second such venture of SUHAM Trust, formed by Kalanjiam federations (of self-help groups). They tasted success when the first hospital was started in Theni to cater to the needs of 20,000 SHG member families. The Madurai hospital is three months old.

The primary objective of the venture is to reduce leakages in family cash flows of the poor in the form of medical expenses, says R. Rajapandian, Team Leader, Dhan Foundation, a Madurai-based non-governmental organisation, the facilitator of SUHAM hospital project. The hospital is fully community owned, with the SHGs having provided Rs. 12 lakh initially. Kalanjiam heads are involved in the functioning of hospitals and participate in review meetings conducted twice a month. There is a sense of pride and ownership in them. “It is our own hospital,” says R. Malliga of Kannathal Kalanjiam, Panaiyur.

Tie-up with many

The 40-bedded, 24x7 hospital has an operation theatre, an outpatient section, a laboratory and a pharmacy. For X-ray and scan, the SUHAM Trust has signed a memorandum of understanding with a nearby scan centre that provides its services at highly affordable rates. For intensive and trauma care a tie-up has been arranged with four hospitals in the city. For super speciality services, an arrangement has been made with Apollo Speciality Hospitals.

Three doctors, including a night doctor, are on duty at the hospital and 21 consultants render service on on-call basis. The hospital is intended to take care of the needs of families of 40,000 SHG members in Madurai district.

All these members have a health insurance cover with the backing of National Insurance Company.

Under a special product, they are required to pay Rs. 300 as annual premium for a family of five members and avail themselves of medical treatment for Rs. 10,000 in a year. Seventy five per cent of the expenses will be reimbursed for secondary care services at designated hospitals.

For hospitalisation of SHG members of the Kalanjiam federations in government medical institutions, wage loss compensation is provided for 15 days at the rate of Rs. 75 a day in a year. “SUHAM Hospital provides service at 20-30 per cent reduction in cost when compared to other trust hospitals in Madurai,” Mr. Rajapandian says. The hospital provides treatment to the public at the same cost as for SHG members.

Five primary care centres have been opened at Kottampatti, Melur, Alanganallur, Tirumangalam and Silaiman by SUHAM Trust. These centres, which supplement the role of primary health centres, function in the afternoon and evening. Medical camps are organised by the trust in villages in association with the local PHC.

The hospital follows a code by which preference in treatment is given on the basis of medical emergency. Medicines are bought only from stockists and hence sold at lower rates. A mobile medical unit provides service in interior villages and it is also used to bring patients to the hospital in an emergency.

“We used to borrow money at high interest rates to provide treatment for ailing members of our families. Now we have our own hospital that provides good treatment at affordable cost. We can even pay the bill at a later date if we do not have money while getting admitted for treatment,” says Ms. Malliga.