Making quality maternal and child care affordable

From left: Rtn K V Ramana Shetty, TRF Trustee Chair Kalyan Banerjee, Rtn Dilip Bajaj, VHS Secretary Dr S Suresh, industrialist A C Muthaiah, Cognizant Vice Chair N Lakshmi Narayanan, Former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N Ram and VHS President Dr M S Swaminathan.
From left: Rtn K V Ramana Shetty, TRF Trustee Chair Kalyan Banerjee, Rtn Dilip Bajaj, VHS Secretary Dr S Suresh, industrialist A C Muthaiah, Cognizant Vice Chair N Lakshmi Narayanan, Former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N Ram and VHS President Dr M S Swaminathan.

RC Madras Metro, D 3230, ­provides a spanking new block at the VHS in Chennai through a $150,000 Global Grant.

“As one who has been running a 200-bed general hospital in Vapi in Gujarat for the past 35 years, I am deeply impressed by “this outstanding project done by RC Madras Metro, and the mission and vision of the VHS (Voluntary Health Services) in ­Chennai. The way you look after the poor and the middle classes at an affordable cost is praiseworthy,” said TRF Trustee Chair Kalyan Banerjee, inaugurating an impressive Abhimanyu Maternity and Child HealthCare facility at the VHS.

Part of a $150,000 Global Grant project done by RC Madras Metro in collaboration with RC Kajang, RID 3300, Malaysia, this project was funded by Rtn Ramana Shetty’s G K Charitable Trust and the medical equipment for the spanking new facility given by the Usha K Jolly Charitable Trust and the United Way of Chennai.

If we can invest financial and technical resources on maternal and child health, problems such as infant mortality and low birth weight can be reduced.
— Dr M S Swaminathan

Paying encomiums to both, the VHS for its vision and mission and providing affordable healthcare to the middle classes, and RC Madras Metro for the great service projects it had been doing, Banerjee said, “As I travel internationally, first as RI President in 2011–12 and now as Chair of our Rotary Foundation, one of the world’s top six ranking Foundations, I continue to be impressed by the outstanding quality of work done by Indian Rotary clubs, such as yours, quietly, unnoticed and unheralded, but with a degree of service that makes such a big difference in the lives of people.”

He also complimented the late Dr J Jeyaraju, past president, who had worked so hard for this project and President of the club S P M Shivakumar,
for getting a Global Grant of $150,000 for this project “which will surely improve maternal and child care services, one of the primary focus areas of the Foundation this year.”

Banerjee said that as TRF celebrated 100 years of service around the world, “I am privileged to lead one of the oldest and greatest Foundations around the world which has been striving to rid the world of the dreaded disease of polio and we are almost done as only Pakistan and Afghanistan have less than 50 cases happening a year; Nigeria, along with the rest of the world, is safe now.”

Cognizant Vice Chairman N Lakshmi Narayanan with TRF Trustee Chair Kalyan Banerjee.
Cognizant Vice Chairman N Lakshmi Narayanan with TRF Trustee Chair Kalyan Banerjee.

The Trustee Chair said TRF spends “close to half a billion dollars a year in areas of disease control, literacy, mother and child care, economic development, providing safe drinking water, and working for peace throughout the world with our peace scholars programme. And it is Rotarians like you, who with their individual contributions, keep our Foundation going. When I see projects like this beautiful facility, I continue to be amazed at the continued goodness, generosity and the magnanimity of people, and the tremendous work done by our Rotarians in India.”

Addressing the meeting, eminent agricultural scientist and President of VHS Dr M S Swaminathan said the founder of VHS, the late Dr K S Sanjivi would have been very happy to see this facility as one of his primary concerns was maternal and child health (MCH). “If we can invest financial and technical resources on MCH, many problems such as infant mortality, low birth weight, etc can be reduced.  Long before the WHO brought the concept of health for all, Dr Sanjivi had already thought of it. But having a concept is not enough; you need a methodology to achieve it.”

VHS Secretary Dr S Suresh said that while in the last decade a paradigm shift has happened in advanced medical care, the cost has become prohibitive for most people. At the VHS, the challenge is how to reduce cost and make healthcare affordable to the general public, which was the vision of Dr Sanjivi. This vision has been carried forward for long years by many doyens of the medical profession and “we told ourselves we will not stray from that path.”

When this project was contemplated, “we realised it would be possible only if the community holds our hands”. Luckily Rtn Ramana Shetty came forward to fund the new block. United Way of Chennai, represented by Cognizant Vice Chairman N Lakshmi Narayanan and Shyamala Ashok, and the Usha K Jolly Charitable Trust represented by Rtn Dilip Bajaj, donated the neonatal equipment; the Inner Wheel Club of Madras Metro made the paediatric section cheerful with a splash of colours and donated a water treatment plant for safe drinking water.

Dr Suresh added that nearly 20 per cent of children under 18 have special healthcare needs, and the new block would strive to provide affordable care to such children and its doctors would also do research on preventive diseases.

In his address, Lakshmi Narayanan said that in India philanthropy is associated more with education than healthcare and when the CSR mandate came three years back, about 70 per cent of funds went to education and only 20 per cent came to healthcare, with the remaining 10 per cent going to other activities such as generating livelihoods. But that is beginning to change.

While India had made rapid strides in the area of education, healthcare had lagged behind. But thanks to institutions like VHS, quality healthcare was becoming accessible and affordable; for the latter both capital expenditure and a much greater use of technology were necessary.

Once generous donations such as seen on this occasion were made, and the capital expenditure taken care of, the cost of medical care came down by half. “I am happy to report that this cost, at the same quality, is declining in India at a rate that is faster than anywhere in the world, thanks to philanthropic contributions, but more important, by using technology.”

A simple example was one of radiology and reading x-rays, which are now taken on the computer. “X-rays taken in the remotest part of India can be read by a specialist within 60 minutes and analysis given at one-tenth of the cost charged two years ago. And computers can do this reading with ­artificial intelligence with 99 per cent accuracy not possible in manual reading.”

While technology could improve affordability, access and availability of good doctors, nurses and paramedics was still a big problem. “There is a great shortage of these professionals across the world and it is expected, that India, given its demographic profile, will be required to supply close to 30 per cent of medical professionals by 2025, because we have the capability to produce and train them in our excellent institutions like Sankara ­Nethralaya, Arvind Eye Care, and of course VHS,” Narayanan added.

Former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N Ram saluted Dr Suresh and the VHS team for the “spirit with which you have maintained the integrity and values and the excellence that Dr ­Sanjivi sought to build over the years at the VHS.” His vision was to meet the healthcare needs of the poor and middle classes, “and this is where democratic India has failed miserably, as also in providing quality education. But this failure is more critical in healthcare.”

President of the club Shivakumar thanked Shetty and Bajaj, both members of the club, for their generous donations and PDG P T Ram Kumar for helping to get a suitable international partner in RC Kajang, which materialised in the $150,000 Global Grant.

Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat

 

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