The picturesque town of Karjat, which falls in Raigad district is popularly known among Mumbaikars and Punekars as a popular weekend getaway.
With a population of over 2.2 lakh, this town has one facet that lies unexplored by many travel enthusiasts–inadequate and inaccessible health care facilities.
While one sub-district hospital has only two doctors catering to over 200 patients, many other tertiary care centres have no doctors, obstetricians or even paediatricians. just because there is a perpetual shortage of medical personnel.One can imagine the plight of ailing patients who turn up at these hospitals only to be turned away,
Besides, patients in need of tertiary care are referred to MGM in Panvel, which for most, is financially unviable.
But District Collector, Vijay Suryawanshi, is set to bring about change with one innovative idea.
The district collector is using the picturesque town’s ‘weekend getaway’ label to invite doctors and specialists from Mumbai and Pune to volunteer and conduct camps in Karjat’s sub-district hospitals on weekends. In turn, the district administration will offer free stay in the town’s hotels as a token of gratitude to the doctors for their services.
The initiative came to the forefront after a Facebook post by Dr Aparna Hegde was widely shared on social media.
The post read, “Hello Mumbai and Pune doctor friends, an urgent request from the Collector of Raigad, Dr. Vijay Suryawanshi: The sub-district hospital in Karjat does not have any doctors, even obstetricians and pediatricians. At all. All patients who need tertiary care need to be referred to MGM in Panvel which is very expensive. And so high-risk factors get missed, and patients end up getting transferred to Mumbai too late leading to mortality. They need volunteer doctors from all fields from Mumbai or Pune who can volunteer to spend one weekend per x months (can be any number) at the hospital. Karjat is only two hours drive from Mumbai and Pune. The Collector has formed a partnership with hotels in Karjat (which is beautiful in itself) and Matheran (which is only 40 minutes away) that will host the doctors during the weekend they are there. And so the entire family can travel and have a weekend vacation. Please please volunteer. What I learnt was that though there are private doctors, most of them are not available during the weekend. I need to find out why. Please DM me if you would like to volunteer. A similar program is running quite well in Matheran.”
The Better India got in touch with Dr Aparna Hegde, a full-time urogynaecologist and founder of NGO Armman. Her NGO works in the sectors of maternal health and infant mortality in remote villages and urban slums across nine states in India.
Dr Hegde was in Raigad regarding an upcoming Armman project which is set to work with 1,000 of its villages. It was during one of the meetings with the district authorities that the Collector spoke about his idea. He explained how the participation of volunteering doctors could prospectively ease the healthcare woes in Karjat.
Dr Hegde told The Better India, “The district of Raigad is huge. And while Alibaug has a district hospital, the sub-district hospitals have absolutely no doctors. The initiative by the Collector is indeed commendable.”
She added, “I was delightfully surprised when my small request was picked up by the media, and in no time, there were more than 20 doctors contacting me to ask about volunteering details.”
The idea was to identify and club similar cases (e.g., dermatology-related cases) and help the doctors and specialists who volunteer on a particular weekend to treat these cases together, shares Dr Hegde.
While her team is coordinating efforts through their circles to get doctors on board at the moment, eventually the district medical authorities will take over.
Speaking to The Times of India, Collector Suryawanshi, said, “We spoke to doctors’ associations last week, and they were willing to volunteer in Karjat.”
He added how even check-ups, let alone full-fledged surgeries by the volunteering doctors would be tremendously helpful for the people of Karjat.
The Better India tried to connect to the Collector of Raigad via WhatsApp, but he couldn’t be reached.
If you are a doctor and wish to be a part of the project, get in touch with Dr Aparna Hegde at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)