Bhubaneswar: A 66 years old doctor from Bengaluru has pitched a tent where no doctor has set foot before — the inaccessible villages in Kalahandi district. Dr Aquinas Edassery, from Bengaluru’s St John’s Hospital, has set up a comprehensive rural healthcare programme under the Swasthya Swaraj Society. She founded the Society to provide medical facilities and better nutrition to deprived tribal communities in many villages, and training a cadre of mobile health workers and educators.
Dr Aquinas runs 24/7 health centres at two locations in Thuamul Rampur block of Kalahandi, which are severely deprived of health facilities. The health centre at Kaniguma village, located in a humble, rented structure, has a dedicated team of five doctors, three nurses and lab technicians from different parts of the country cater to people from more than 150 villages.
For her selfless and painstaking service, Dr Aquinas Edassery will be awarded by the Forum for Medical Ethics Society — Indian Journal of Medical Ethics Award here on 7th December 2018 at the World Congress on Bioethics for ethical practice, and improved access to healthcare, and will be the first doctor to get the award.
Her health centre at Kerpai village is in an inaccessible location. The 38 villages of Kerpai and its neighbouring gram panchayats are practically in an area which has not seen medical care before. Dr Aquinas started working in Kalahandi in 2013 and started the centres in 2014. It was known to the world in the 80s and 90s for starvation deaths and frequent droughts. Now the district is doing quite well, but for the tribal dominant blocks. Thuamul Rampur block has more than 82 per cent tribals.
Dr Aquinas also trains Swasthya Sathis, who are village women selected by villagers at village meetings, one per village or hamlet.
After graduating from St John’s Hospital in MD Medicine, and teaching there for a brief period, she worked in Chamarajanagar for seven to eight years and was convinced that this is where her services were required.