In a first-of-its-kind initiative in Thiruvananthapuram, RC Trivandrum Central, along with its partner RC Kazhakuttom, RID 3211, set up four dialysis machines at the Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama Charitable Hospital for chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients at a cost of ₹25 lakh. This centre is a good example of how “wishful thinking can translate into a useful healthcare project for the needy if the club members are resourceful and hardwrking,” said PDG Suresh Mathew. You don’t need big money to execute grand projects, but have to “dream big and be resourceful enough to implement ideas,” he said.
Initially, RC Trivandrum Central, the implementing club, and RC Kazhakuttom, the partner club, had contributed a dialysis machine each and “we were planning to apply for a global grant to procure three more machines, when Major Donors K Janardanan Nair and Dr S V Lekshmi came forward to sponsor one more dialysis unit,” said V Balagopal Nair, President, RC Trivandrum Central.
This Rotary couple has inherited the legacy of Dr Kochu Kesavan Nair, a gynaecologist and father of Janardanan Nair, who started the Ramakrishna Hospital in 1939 and practised medicine till his death in 1996. The two sisters of J Nair — Shyamala Devi and Radha Devi — have also pitched in by sponsoring the fourth machine (each cost ₹6.45 lakh).
Mathew said the two clubs are now using this synergy for other mega projects, including a standalone dialysis centre with more machines, for which land has been identified. An MoU was signed with the hospital to provide at least 1,200 subsidised coupons a year to Rotary for giving to needy patients. Against the cost of ₹1,600–2,000 in normal category, under the subsidy scheme the Rotary centre will charge around ₹400–500.
“We started the project discussion in Aug 2019, signed the MoU in September and inaugurated the facility in three months,” said Balagopal. A nephrologist will visit the centre three times a week.
PDG Mathew is happy that the clubs did not go for a global grant as “it takes 18–24 months to implement projects. Club presidents want to see their pet projects implemented during their term.” GG is not the right choice for clubs planning a ‘limited-scale project with a fixed time schedule.’
Mathew recalled how during his governorship (2017–18), G N Nair, Treasurer, RC Trivandrum Central, had envisaged a Rotary Mammogram Centre at the Government Medical College. “He spoke to State Finance Minister Dr Thomas Isaac who pulled the strings to make KSFE, a public sector undertaking, sanction ₹25 lakh under its CSR initiative to set up the mammogram facility which will be inaugurated shortly.” This CSR partnership gave the clubs the confidence to think of big projects.
In the coming year, RC Kazhakuttom will take up the standalone dialysis centre for “which we have identified an international partner and we will be applying for global grant for this mega project,” said Shyam Starry Pereira, Club President. DG Shirish Kesavan has agreed to set aside a DDF of $10,000 for this mega dialysis centre.
Despite odds and limited money, Sugandhi (31), a CKD patient, has to travel 30 km from her house at Nedumangad, city suburb, for free weekly sessions at the Government Medical College and at a private medical college where she was charged ₹1,800 for a sitting. With a smile on his face, her husband Kannan said, “we are keen to avail the subsidised service at the Ramakrishna Hospital which is closer to our home.” Mohammed Navaz is relieved that he can take his ailing sister Rafkhan Beevi (52) to a hospital where they had visited many times to avail OPD services.
While the Ramakrishna Mission spent ₹15 lakh for the Rotary Centre, the two clubs donated dialysis machines worth ₹25 lakh.
The worsening scenario
In 2010, Kerala had just 300 dialysis machines and Thiruvananthapuram, its capital, had 80 of them. Now, the State has around 3,300 machines and the capital has 800 units. “In spite of the dialysis units being set up at government hospitals, the growing demand from CKD patients far outstrips the supply,” said V Balagopal Nair, President, RC Trivandrum Central, RID 3211.
Addressing a large gathering at the inauguration of the Rotary Dialysis Centre, DG Shirish Kesavan said Rotary leaders in India had clinched a deal with the manufacturers to procure around 5,000 dialysis machines at a bulk discount of 25 per cent and urged the clubs to utilise this offer for their communities
Earlier, Legislator O Rajagopal inaugurated the Rotary Dialysis Centre in the presence of Sasthamangalam Councillor Bindu Sreekumar. Hospital Adhyaksh (chief) Swami Mokshavratananda welcomed the Rotary leaders, government officials and performed the rituals.
A community health centre (CHC)-cum-PHC in Palode on the outskirts was adopted by RC Trivandrum Central at a cost of ₹10 lakh. “It serves to the needs of tribals,” adds Mathew.
In another tribal outreach, the club is providing electricity to 25 poor families in Kottoor, a forest area 70 km from city, at a cost of ₹1.5 lakh. A well and two toilet blocks at a total cost of ₹2 lakh benefit 30 tribal children of a government primary school and 300 families in this village, said Balagopal.
A child and maternity block at the CHC, Puthenthope, was revamped at a cost of ₹6–7 lakh by RC Kazhakuttom and “we are still maintaining it and supplying their medical needs,” said Pereira. With floods ravaging parts of Kerala in the last two years, a wells rejuvenation programme has desilted and deepened badly-damaged household wells of poor families at Chengannur, Kottayam, Vaikom and Ranni, Pathanamthitta, last year and this year the club will do another 200 wells in Kozhikode.