It is not surprising to see pregnant women and lactating mothers queuing up in large numbers on the first Thursday of every month at the Public Health Centre (PHC) in Vantamuri, one of the rural pockets in Belgaum. This is because RC Belgaum President Dr Satish Dhamankar, along with two gynaecologists, makes it a point to visit this government medical centre once a month to offer free consultation and medicines to pregnant women. ‘Reaching the Unreached’ is a maternal and child health initiative of D 3170, which has been taken up by the club in association with the Karnataka government.
During a visit to the PHC in May 2016, Dr Dhamankar was shocked to find the pathetic state of pregnant women and the newborns and felt proper health education, along with the involvement of community workers, would go a long way in ushering safe motherhood and healthy babies in Vantamuri. The patients attending the antenatal clinic were divided into high risk and low risk categories. “Many patients had iron and calcium deficiency and those with severe anaemia were given intravenous injections,” he says.
“When a mother counselled by us comes back with a healthy baby in her arms and a smile on her face, it makes all the hard work we do worthwhile, and this is the best gift RC Belgaum can give to the village,” he says, adding the project has reduced maternal and neonatal morbidity.
Change in mindset
So far 436 patients have visited the clinic and are under regular care of the three-member team of gynaecologists.
Asha (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers and volunteers play a key role in educating the women in adopting best practices during pregnancy for giving birth to healthy babies.
They visit pregnant women in the village to prescribe a healthy diet, check hygiene and living conditions, acting as a bridge between the patients and the neonatal clinic.
Tabassum, a regular at the clinic, who had recently delivered said in a choked voice, “Only if this Rotary project had been there during my last pregnancy, I would not have lost my first child.” Nearly 40 patients are examined during each visit and prompt arrangements are made for those in need of urgent treatment.
A success story
DG Dr Vinay Pai Raikar inaugurated the maternal and childcare clinic at Vantamuri in August 2016. With great feedback from the people, government officials have pledged support and more help to the club in this project. While the infrastructure and funds are provided by the government, the club offered expertise. “Our members volunteer with their time, expertise and efforts for the success of the programme, which is the most cost-effective project of RC Belgaum as it was set up under a government-NGO partnership, and will be replicated across the State,” said Dr Raikar.