MAKING A DIFFERENCE Society

Being a real doctor

DOCTORS IN SERVICE: From left to right: Srividya Manjunath, Amuthanilavan, Sabari Manikandan, Balagurusamy, Venkatesh, Arunkumar and Ramya. Photo: Special Arrangement

DOCTORS IN SERVICE: From left to right: Srividya Manjunath, Amuthanilavan, Sabari Manikandan, Balagurusamy, Venkatesh, Arunkumar and Ramya. Photo: Special Arrangement  



Some of them are batch mates from Madurai Medical College or were colleagues in corporate hospitals in the city who over the past few years spent many sleepless nights irked by the respective management’s policies towards patients.

There were apparently situations when they felt like a pawn in the money-making business of their hospital administrators. They are all young, full of dreams and responsibilities and with families to run on their salaried jobs. But there were many occasions when they loathed their helplessness but not their profession.

“Once a 19-year-old boy suffering from TB came to the Emergency Ward of the hospital I was working in,” recalls Dr.R.Amudhanilavan. Even as the doctor on duty was checking him, two members from the management side reportedly asked him to deposit Rs.10,000 first or go elsewhere. “Obviously the boy had no money and I paid for him,” he says. The incident, however, took a different turn when the chairman of the hospital learnt about it and the doctor was reimbursed.

But there are umpteen such cases happening inside the wards, casualty and ICUs of corporate hospitals daily where doctors are induced to hand over the care of patients to the corporate staff. As a result the patients are either denied admission, or forced to cough up the big money in advance for treatment and surgery. And the much-vaunted image of the doctor goes for a toss.

In a city like Madurai, says Dr.S.Sabari Manikandan, many poor patients come from the rural belt. “They sell their property or jewellery or take loan and undergo hardship to be able to provide medical care for a beloved family member.”

The big hospitals have no concern for anything else but money, rues Dr.Amudha. Patients who can pay are made to undergo expensive and redundant diagnostic tests while on many occasions cases that are likely to tarnish the image of the hospital are turned away. For statistics, everybody likes to show low mortality rate and keep infectious diseases at bay.

So where will all those who cannot afford costly treatment bills or require long-term palliative care go? Usually majority of such patients are referred to the Government Hospital which is bursting at its seams.

The doctor friends would often meet and discuss the unhappy incidents each of them witnessed in their respective place of work. They feared that the wastefulness of everything would suck one day and take the love out of what they do.

“We did not want to struggle with the loss of our professional ideals,” says Dr.R.Balagurusamy, whose brainchild it was to do something for the unfortunate who face practical difficulties and painful experiences.

Luckily, we were a group of like-minded service-oriented individuals who wanted to serve the people, points out Dr.V.Ramya.

With some vague ideas in their mind, the seven young doctors in their 30s along with an engineer friend R.K.Senthil, established the Aishwaryam Trust in August 2014 and opened a free treatment clinic. This was followed by periodic medical camps in villages. Seeing their determination and dedication, many of their doctor friends offered to help by following up on patients from health camps and offering them free treatment or surgery at subsidised cost at their respective clinics and hospitals.

While the core team of seven members left their parent jobs and joined elsewhere for sustenance, setting up a hospice became their primary goal. Dr.Amudhanilavan, who lost his mother to breast cancer, was an inspiration. “She was a gynaecologist always busy taking care of young mothers-to-be but she failed to diagnose her own problem. Despite strong will power to survive, she suffered lot of pain and passed away at 54 six years ago,” he says, adding, “ever since I wanted to offer palliative care for patients who are in the last stages of life.”

With support from his friends-cum-Aishwaryam trustees, the Nethravathi (named after his mother) Pain, Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Centre was opened last month.

The doctors pooled in their salaries to rent a building and put up 12 beds and all other basic minimum requirements. Without any formal announcement, the hospice is already running full. “There is so much demand that we have started working on expansion plans,” says Dr.Balaguru.

Though financially weak, the team is strong on hope and sincerity. “When our present medical system failed us, we decided to test out an alternative fully knowing that it will be riddled with challenges,” says Dr.Ramya, who sold her piece of land to contribute to the corpus fund.

The doctors are determined not to look back. They have divided each day’s work among themselves and are at the centre everyday taking care of the ailing. “The city has many good Samaritans who have donated food, medicines, clothes, cots, grocery items,” notes Dr.Balaguru. To acknowledge the goodwill of all those who have helped them, the team is having an official inauguration of the palliative care centre this Sunday (February 28) with Madurai Superintendent of Police.

The road for the team is uphill. As doctors, they are building their network with more like-minded medicos and assure professional and hygienic treatment at the hospice free of cost. But they still do require lot of help and support. Keeping one’s integrity intact is quite a struggle these days. But then that must be one’s effort, as these doctors have shown.

For more details log on to www.aishwaryamtrust.org

(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail soma.basu@thehindu.co.in to tell her about someone you know who is making a difference)

WHAT THEY SAY

Watching the poor being deprived of befitting medical attention gave us the inspiration to treat them free. Some of us like-minded friends got together to provide palliative and rehabilitation care to those who cannot afford.” Dr.R.Balagurusamy, MD

“Seeing many malpractices in corporate hospitals, we feel bad but do not regret taking up medicine as our career. We will not trade our time for anything else but this service to treat others. It was a dream to care for those who cannot afford medical treatment.”

Dr.R.Amudhanilavan and his wife Dr.Srividya Manjunath, both are MBBS DNB (General Medicine)

“We avoid unnecessary investigations and treat everybody equally. Our policy is to first stabilise the patient and make him or her feel comfortable without worrying about who will bear the cost of the treatment.” Dr.S.Sabari Manikandan MD

“At our hospice, we treat our patients like our own family member. More than money and medicine, it is the attention and love we give them that cures them and makes them happy.” Dr.M.Arun Kumar MBBS DNB (General Surgery) and his wife Dr.V.Ramya, Bachelor of PhysioTherapy

“Many age-related diseases are unrecognised in Madurai. We can treat the elderly with love and care and by applying our knowledge.” Dr.P.Venkatesh MD DM (Neuro)

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 4:05:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/being-a-real-doctor/article8276054.ece

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