The ‘visiting hour’ at the Kanchi Kamakoti Child Trust Hopsital (KKCTH) is between 4 & 6 in the evening. Mr.Krishnamoorthy of EKAM foundation was kind enough to arrange a visit. The hospital is situated in Nungambakkam, Chennai. Being quite close to my house, I was able to reach the place 15 minutes in advance. I sat down with a cup of coffee in the waiting hall only to see anxious faces staring at me.
After a few minutes, Krishnamoorthy arrived and took me to the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Before entering the unit, I washed my hands diligently, dusted myself off and removed my footwear. As I stepped inside the unit, I was greeted with a distinct hum of the machines. I saw two babies ‘Baby of Gomathi’ & ‘Baby of Saritha’. Neo-natal care refers to treatment of new-born babies. These babies were the size of my hand and were not even named. Both of them have been battling for their lives since they were born. 15 days or so. While one of them sleeping, the other was being administered an injection on her leg. The baby was screaming with extreme pain on her face. I had to look away.
The ventilator support on which the babies were on is rented at Rs.1000 per day. I was also informed the government hospitals are always under-equipped when it comes to ventilators. KKCTH is paid 50% of the costs incurred by EKAM Foundation. These costs would include medicines, transportation, equipment, consultation, doctor charges etc.
After discussing with the committed nurses at the NICU, I wanted to talk to the parents. I first met Mrs.Gomathi & Mr.Suresh who are from Kumaravadi village near Chengalpattu district. They told me that the baby was born in Chengalpattu Government Hospital (G.H.) where she had developed ‘Muchu thenaral’ or acute-breathing problem. Dr.Satya from the Chengalpattu Government Hospital tied them up with EKAM Foundation. I learnt from the mother that this her 4th baby and earlier three had died. The first at Chengalpattu G.H., the second in Egmore G.H. and the third in SRM hospital, Chennai. Each time the child was first admitted to the Chengalpattu G.H. I was ashamed that our society has made them go through an outrageously costly learning curve. The entire operation would cost 3 Lakhs excluding hidden costs such as travel, food & accommodation. Mr. Suresh earns around Rs. 3000 per month as a driver, giving very little scope for insurance or savings.
I also met Mrs.Saritha, another mother. Saritha & Dhandapani come from Pernamet village of Gudiyatham block, Vellore District. Dhandapani works as a coolie & makes Rs.120 per day. They had to sell off their TVS bike for paying the expenses incurred on food & travel. They have 3 other children who are studying in Pernamet government school. Mrs.Saritha did break down while talking to me wondering how she would manage the food & travel.
At the end of it, I was quite disturbed. Firstly, that the value that we attach for life is very less. 3 babies of Mrs.Gomathy had died before she found a way to keep one of her child alive. I am terribly ashamed if a mother cannot give birth to a healthy child in a government hospital. Secondly, our Healthcare system is not even remotely inclusive. I would indeed term it as being ‘merciless’ on the poor. Most of them are afraid to talk to doctors and have little idea about the medication or the illness.
Just after finishing the last paragraph, I called Mr.Krishnamoorthy to enquire about the babies. Mrs.Gomathy has gone back home with her baby & Mrs.Saritha has started breast-feeding her baby. It brings a wide smile to my face. I am indeed happy that SIFI is supporting an organization like EKAM Foundation to deliver quality healthcare to the poorest.