We had an opportunity to interact with Mr Prakash Bargaonkar and Mr Rajeev Kulkarni at Venture Centre, Pune on 6th April, 2018. They gave us an overview of Helpage India and their activities across the state of Maharashtra. The SIIP team got an opportunity to be a part of the field sites (urban, semi urban and rural sites) of Helpage India with their mobile medical clinics.
On Monday (16th April, 2018) , we visited the villages of Naygaon, Sangavi and Palashi in the Khandala district of Maharashtra. These three villages didn’t have any medical facility or PHC/ CHC units around their vicinity. Helpage India conducts weekly check-up camps in these villages, in a mobile van. This mobile van consists of basic medical supplies, has a doctor on board, one pharmacist, one coordinator / admin staff and a multipurpose driver who does crowd management and helps with admin work. These vans have a scheduled visit of 2-4 hours in these villages, depending on the population of that village. The set-up is primarily to have regular check-ups and provide medications to patients on a regular basis for common ailments such as pain, fever, cold, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases. The complex cases are referred to the nearest PHC which is at Shirwal, around 5kms from these villages.
The patients at these places ranged across a diverse segment: elderly people, middle aged and few young people with issues ranging from joint pain, diabetes, eye sight problems, upset stomach, fever etc. Mostly, it solved the purpose of getting medications at the right time for people with remote access to healthcare facilities. Over a period of 2-3 hrs, these mobile units witnessed a footfall of 30-40 patients. We interacted with the team, Ms, Swati who is MSW and knows almost every elderly in those villages, helped us in communication with the elderly and also shared her experience of working for a cause through the proper channel. Our interaction with Dr Gaikwad led us to insights such as lack of proper implementation of healthcare schemes at the lowest level due to lack of awareness and proper implementation at times. For him, the motivation to work in such rural areas was to ensure he could help people who really need access to healthcare and ensuring he is able to serve the undeserved.
Post our immersion in rural parts of Maharashtra, we visited a few slums and old age homes in the vicinity of Pune on 18-19 April, 2018. On the first day, we went to Lal Chawl where we interacted with Dr Ganu, who himself had worked extensively before, and came in with a purpose of serving the underserved. He himself was over 75 yrs old still he works for more than 8 hrs a day. It was a good experience for us to sit with him, and observe the patients for the kind of problems which they came up with. The footfalls were mostly similar, with problems ranging from issues with pain, BP, PMS etc. The difference with respect to the patients in earlier rural settings, was primarily in terms of the willingness of the patients to follow-up. We interacted with Mr. Ajay (MSW) and Ms. Maitreyi (Intern) who provided us insights from their angles so we could observe the system through various lenses.
Our visit the next day, was to an old age home named Maatoshri in Karve Nagar. Here, the in-mates belonged to a wide variety of segments, with regards to their paying capacity and people who were staying for free. The facilities were not up to the mark, with little care taken in terms of elderly friendly facilities. One of the highlights was an interaction with an elderly lady, who shared her story of how she belonged to a wealthy family, and her story of rags to riches due to the various situations she was forced to deal with.
Post that, it was followed with a visit to Shirdi Sai Old age home for blind old women, where the kind of problems were very varied. It was an old dilapidated facility which was undergoing renovation due to which the occupants reported a lot of cases were Asthma. We interacted with Dr. Kulkarni, who is also a part of HV Desai hospital, and his insights were also very useful. The needs and problems of the inmates in this facility were very varied and was primarily linked to their social needs, and also the problems faced due to their lack of sight.
Overall, the visits across the various sites of Helpage provided us with a very interesting perspective of the diverse kind of population which exists across the elderly age group, and how various factors and stakeholders need to be taken into consideration.