Dr Uday Bhanu Rana is a gynaecologist posted in the Zonal Hospital in Mandi district, Himachal Pradesh. He paid Rs 10 lakh from his own pocket to purchase equipment that would help him conduct total laparoscopic hysterectomy (TLH) surgeries.
Surprisingly, this facility is not available in some of the state’s leading healthcare institutions like IGMC-Shimla and the Dr Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College. But not for patients from low-income households who visit Dr Uday.
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In the past week, the 35-year-old surgeon has already performed the TLH surgery on seven patients for free.
“Although my parents always wanted me to become a doctor, I actually love this profession. Surgery is my passion and more than anything, I want to play a part in improving the state of healthcare in rural areas. I’m from Mandi district, and the objective was to serve my people. Unlike the private sector, where corporate interests take precedence, in the public sector, I can strictly focus on my profession,” says Dr Uday, speaking to The Better India.
He purchased the equipment in June, and it arrived at the hospital in 2-3 weeks.
So, why did Dr Uday think it was necessary to make this purchase?
There are two ways you can perform these surgeries—open surgery and laparoscopic surgery. In open surgery, you cut open the abdomen through layers, and perform the procedure.
“In laparoscopic surgery, you just make 2-3 holes of 1 cm and 0.5 cm each. The problem can be treated through these holes. There is no need to cut the abdomen, which requires leaving behind a 15-20 cm scar and enduring a long healing process. When you open up a patient, they need to stay in the hospital for 7-10 days. Laparoscopic surgery is more convenient for the patient, who can be discharged after 24 hours. The procedure is almost pain-free, the healing process is easier, and the patient can go back to work with in a week or two at the most,” he says.
In addition, the TLH surgery saves the patient from excessive blood loss and pain.
Alongside his colleague Dr Sandeep, Dr Uday was also keen that the women patients did not have to endure weakness after surgery. However, the procedure isn’t easy for doctors and requires serious patience as it has a long learning curve.
“Initially, we tried purchasing the facility for the surgeries through the government. It’s not like they can’t provide it for us. However, there is a clear protocol, and this purchasing process was going to take about 10-12 months or even longer. I’ve done my fellowship in laparoscopic surgery, and could get rusty the longer I stayed away from it. See, no one in the public setup here is doing laparoscopic surgery, particularly in gynaecology. I picked it up, consulted with my parents, and proceeded from there,” he informs.
To further improve things, Dr Uday conducts these surgeries for free. Otherwise, a patient in Himachal would have to pay between Rs 50,000-Rs 1 lakh at a private hospital. In corporate hospitals across Delhi and Chandigarh, the procedure would cost between Rs 1.5 lakh-Rs 3 lakh.
For Dr Uday, this is meaningful because serving in public health has brought him a real sense of fulfillment. He is also acutely aware of the challenges that come with this work.
“We are struggling with a resource crunch in public health. There is a real shortage of resources. You might have read about the recent assault on doctors…No doctor would like to see their patient die or suffer, particularly after learning so much about medicine and working their socks off to become one. The real problem is systemic. We just don’t have enough resources. This is the reason people suffer,” he argues.
Dr Uday, though, has taken the bull by the horns and decided to address this resource crunch in his own way. While serious structural reforms are needed in the public health sector, India also needs more doctors like him.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)