Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A dream to making quality healthcare accessible

These past couple weeks have truly felt like the fastest weeks of my life. Earlier I met two PhD students from Germany, Emma and John, who had come to Narayana Healthcare Hospital to work on their own perspective projects. While they were also constantly in touch with the research department, I never did manage to bump into them until the very end of their stay. Emma’s project revolved around the philanthropic model of the hospital while John’s was an investigation about the use of Electronic Medical Records at the hospital. I found their insight helpful despite the fact that our projects had their differences. We talked for a few hours, and I was relieved to hear that I was not the only one who had a few bumps along the way. My time here as taught me that despite the convenience of email, calling people is the preferred method of getting in touch with people. Patience is a must to navigate and extract web of information Narayana has to offer.

My chat with my fellow student researchers inspired me to pay a visit to the Narayana Institute of Cardiac Sciences. There, I met Laxmi Mani, a very well-known philanthropist. I found out that Dr. Devi Shetty, the  founder of the hospital made sure to personally meet each and every philanthropic case that the hospital takes. After meeting with Dr. Shetty, patients that fall below the poverty line and qualify for care are referred to the philanthropic office with a concessional package. This package is the subsidized cost of their treatment. Patients are asked to pay as much of as they can. The remaining amount is covered by the Have a Heart Foundation for up to 30000/- rupees. Any additional remaining costs are covered by individual donors. If patients cannot pay anything, all the costs for treatment are covered by the generous donors. Ms. Mani told me that many of the individual donors have stipulations for their donations. They limit their donations to patients of a certain religious group or age. Typically, they want to donate solely to children. Luckily, Ms. Mani manages to convince them that there is value in donating to older patients. Providing treatment for a young mother or father, for example, means that the breadwinner of a family can go back to work and provide.

The philanthropic office is geared towards helping cardiac patients. The cost of cardiac surgery has been greatly reduced at this institution because treatment is limited to one part of the body. Unlike cancer that can requires multi-specialties because it afflicts many parts of the body and expensive chemotherapy, cardiology patients entail much less complexity in their treatment. Nevertheless, cancer patients and patients of other specialties come to Ms. Mani for help and aren’t away. In fact, no patient has ever been denied treatment because of their socioeconomic background.

One patient that I met traveled for more than one day from West Bengal to seek care at Narayana. With a monthly income of 2500 rupees, he and his family found it difficult to support a family of six. To pay for the concessional package, the family cut down a tree on their property made of valuable wood. They also borrowed from family and the local mosque. Collectively, they had 80000 rupees, but this still wasn’t enough to pay for the 178000 rupee package. In this case, the Have a Heart Foundation and independent donors stepped in to cover the remaining costs of the subsidized surgery. Fortunately for this patient, he will be admitted within one to two days as opposed to the 6 months to 2 years that would likely be the case at a government hospital.

Another case that I saw was a child that had accidentally ingested acid. The family had sought treatment at a local hospital, and ended up spending all they had. Even then, the treatment wasn’t complete, so they came to the Narayana philanthropic office for help that they probably wouldn’t receive elsewhere. These are just a few snapshots of the cases I have gotten to see recently. While every case is different, they all have a similar story: none of these patients would have been able to seek the care they need without an institution like Narayana that cares for the poor. 

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