A 24-hour working cycle, shifts up to 16 hours a day (sometimes even as much as 36 to 48 hours a stretch), little rest, and literally shouldering the responsibility of life and death on their shoulders daily — the nation’s doctors are truly remarkable people.
And in a country such as India where resources are limited and obstacles seem unlimited, it is the doctors, and of course their patients, who bear the brunt of such concern.
It must be said, doctors working to treat patients and save the lives of individuals in rural India need special commemoration.
According to a report released by KPMG and the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), nearly 75% of dispensaries, 60% of hospitals and 80% of doctors are located in urban areas, serving only approximately 28% of the population of India.
A report from the National Health Profile (NHP) 2013 revealed similar findings in which it found that in India, only 33% of government doctors are available in the rural areas where nearly 70% of India’s population lives. In terms of figures, only 29,562 of India’s 1,06,613 government doctors work in villages.
Millions cannot access India’s overburdened hospitals and inadequate medical facilities, a crisis illustrated by the further reports that India is short of nearly 5,00,000 doctors. Based on the findings of a World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2014, India has an average doctor-patient ratio of 1:1,674.
Some of India’s doctors are working over-time, going above and beyond their call of duty to serve some of the country’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities, which is why such individuals must be specially acknowledged and celebrated on International Doctor’s Day, even if it is just for one day each year.
Here are just some of The Better India’s most inspiring doctors:
Dr. Ravindra Kolhe and Dr. Smita Kolhe
Dr. Ravindra Kolhe of Mumbai spent a further 6 months, after finishing his MBBS, studying how to help the most medically deprived people in one of Maharashtra’s remotest villages, Bairagarh, in Melghat.
Afterwards, he set about looking for a suitable companion, a doctor who would be willing to work in the village, which lay 40km away from the nearest transport facility.
That’s when he met Dr. Smita Kolhe, a doctor with a flourishing practice in Nagpur.
The pair both moved to Bairagarth where they became the village’s only doctors and successfully worked on improving the health conditions for the villagers.
But Dr. Ravindra’s work didn’t stop there. The villagers also had many farming issues, and with no-one else to seek advice from, they turned to Dr. Ravindra. Instead of shunning them, he decided to learn about the anatomy of animals from a veterinary doctor friend and also the science of plants which led to him developing a fungus-resistant variety of seed. This development went on to tackle the issue of farmer suicides which had become a problem in the village due to crop failings.
Now, the village is farmer suicide-free, has good roads, electricity and has 12 primary health centres spread across Melghat. Dr. Ravindra no longer charges his patients and takes them to the government hospitals when needed to make sure they get the best treatment.
And his legacy is set to continue as his younger son, Ram, who is pursuing his MBBS at the Government Medical college in Akola, wants to become a surgeon and follow in the footsteps of his father.
You can read their full story here: These Two Doctors Transformed One of Maharashtra’s Poorest Regions Into a Farmer Suicide-Free Zone
Dr. Aquinas Edassery
At the age of 61, Dr. Aquinas could have chosen retirement. Instead, she chose to work for the tribal people living in the forests of Thuamul Rampur Block in Odisha’s district of Kalahandi, a place so remote that no roads lead to it, and an off-road jeep is needed to reach it.
“It was not an easy decision to make, to move to a remote corner of the country that lacks basic facilities, to gain the trust of the tribal people and work with them, and not knowing the local language. People who get job transfers here consider it to be a punishment transfer,” she says.
But she knew that it was for precisely these reasons that she had to go there.
On one occasion, she cared for young boy who had been declared ‘dead’ by the village guru, and three days later he had made a complete recovery.
Along with two of her previous colleagues, Dr. Aquinas started an NGO ‘Swasthya Swaraj’ and set up two medical centres in the region that are equipped to provide high quality healthcare 24/7 and has a laboratory to carry out primary investigations.
From its tiny office, the team goes out on two jeeps into the deepest tribal pockets of Kalahandi, administering care to some of the most deprived and at-risk communities, seeing anywhere up to 200 patients a day.
Dr. Aquinas staunchly believes in empowering individuals so that they are able to take care of themselves and spends much of her time educating, especially women, on basic health care.
You can get in touch with Dr. Aquinas at firstname.lastname@example.org and read her full story here: At 65, This Doctor Treks & Drives to the Remotest Pockets of Odisha to Save Lives
Dr. Gopi Nallaiyan and Dr. Hemapriya Natesan
Dr. Gopi, a paediatric cardiac surgeon, and his wife Dr. Hemapriya left their well-paying jobs to start a foundation to treat underprivileged children with a deadly heart condition, Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), free of charge.
Leaving their jobs in government hospitals, they couple now conduct health camps in rural areas and cities in southern Tamil Nadu for checkups and to spread awareness about CHD, provide financial and medical support to underprivileged children suffering from the condition.
To date they have screened 500 patients up to 15 years of age and have operated on 15 of them, patients who would otherwise not have been able to afford any treatment.
“Quitting our jobs was a life changing decision for us because it is very difficult to work in this field without regular income. But the problem is that anywhere we go, people here will be in the same condition. We will be in big cities earning money, but there will be no job satisfaction. And so many patients will come in and we will say no to them for surgeries. So we had to start,” says Dr. Hemapriya.
You can read their full story here: This Doctor Couple Quit Well-Paying Jobs to Perform Free Heart Surgeries for Underprivileged Kids