Malshirus: An insight into community healthcare for women.

Malshirus, a village in the Purandar district of Maharashtra, is the field of work for MASUM. MASUM is a development group that is aimed at making women self reliant and aware of their rights, as well as to nurture their physical and emotional health.

We visited the village on 10th March 2015 and were escorted around and given an insight into the activities of MASUM by ‘Sadaphules’. We had an opportunity to observe the proceedings of village level samitis. There are three main samitis in function: 1. Jaagruk Mahila Samiti, 2. Aadhar Gath Samiti, 3. Aarogya Samiti. These samitis (each organised at the community level by local women of Malshiras) aim at creating awareness, financial independence and better health practices amongst the women. The Aarogya Samiti organises awareness camps for women on reproductive health, trains health workers to do initial screening of diseases and informs PHCs about pregnancies and ensure safe deliveries under skilled supervision.

There were several observations that we made while going around the village. Even though the maternal mortality and infant mortality rate of wasn’t high, the number of stillbirths in the village was alarming. The nurses (during our visit to PHCs) tried to convince us of a great decline in number of stillbirths but the opinion seemed to differ across different health workers. The PHC, well equipped with modern medical equipments and a pathology lab seemed in need of a little redemption. An obvious shortage of doctors, nurses, labour rooms and ambulances made us probe deeper into the availability and accessibility of health care to rural population. Although the government has done much in the field of community health, including diabetes and blood pressure checkup camps for elderly population and hormonal checkup camps for women, there is still a lot that remains to be done. The PHC had no working ultrasonography machine and patients were frequently being referred to the RH in Saswad for foetal health monitoring. The travel time between Saswad to Malshiras being more than an hour, or more depending on availability of an ambulance. Instruments in the neonatal department, such as incubator and phototherapy units, remained unused due to lack of skill and lack of proper maintenance. Further aggravation to these problems was provided by a load shedding schedule of 6 hours. The pathology department of PHC was well maintained and blood tests for various conditions such as pneumonia, malaria, sugar and anaemia were being carried out. However, a number of tests which required blood culture and analytical observations were not being performed.

There remains a lot more to learn about the health care area in Malshiras and we hope to do that in subsequent visits and observations during health camps.

(Opinions expressed here are author’s only and do not reflect the view of Venture Center, Pune)