rural healthcare

RHCF — a Beacon of Hope in Rural Healthcare in India

Rural healthcare in India is more than riddled with problems. Rampant infant deaths, rats gnawing at a newborn, lack of ambulance forcing people to carry a patient on foot for miles, and a woman giving birth on road — are just some of the horrific cases that highlight India’s rural healthcare scenario.

Survey after survey points out poor infrastructure, inadequate medical supplies, and acute shortage of doctors as gaping holes in our public healthcare system. In the latest Economic Survey, the states of Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Haryana, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh came up as the worst performers in terms of availability of doctors in the primary health care centres and their compliance with health standards. While West Bengal doesn’t feature in the list, it’s not all hunky-dory here.

The Ground Reality

According to the National Health Profile 2018, there are 914 primary health care centres in the state while in 2017 there were 923. The state’s public expenditure on health has not seen much increase rising by 53% only while the state budget did increase by 76% in the period between 2014 and 2019. This bodes quite poor for the 70% rural population of the state and their access to doctors, specialists, and emergency care. The reserved doctors working in the state services often leave after the mandatory three years of services for further studies or in urban centres, leaving a shortfall of 297 gynaecologists, 320 paediatricians, and 349 surgeons in the rural healthcare set up.

Amidst these dismal data and heart-breaking reports of the poor man’s battles with healthcare, there emerge some organisations who carve out an exemplary path for all of us to follow. Since 2009, Rural Health Care Foundation (RHCF) is bringing affordable and quality primary healthcare for low-income rural and urban communities.

A Beacon of Hope

RHCF operates through a well laid out framework. They currently run 12 rural health care centres and 5 urban centres with the dedicated aim of providing primary health care in places where state facilities do not operate within a 50 km radius. The patients are provided with much-needed access to consultation and free medication, while they benefit from specialised General Medicine, Optometry, Dentistry and Homeopathy departments and a pharmacy stocked with 200 kinds of generic medications. RHCF centres are strategically located to serve the maximum number of people and functions with optimum technical and financial efficiency.

Taking on the Challenges

Absence of uniform codes such as Social Security, etc. in India makes it the government’s prerogative to give health care access to the vast rural population which cannot afford private medical services or travel to urban centres all the time.

In such a situation, schemes such as Ayushman Bharat, a national health insurance scheme, and the West Bengal government’s SwasthyaSathi, medical insurance scheme, are quite welcome. The state scheme already lists 47 lakh beneficiaries and plans to include extended families and informal contractual workers too.

While these schemes address a part of the problem, critical issues such as prompt delivery of care are still either overlooked or not implemented well enough. RHCF is working towards filling these gaps in the health care system. They have built rural healthcare centres that are well-connected by transportation system for faster access for patients from within as well as around the village, ensuring maximum reach of medical care.

Besides bringing more and more villages under their ambit of care, the organisation has a technologically-sound process in place. They conduct regular performance evaluation and optimize their efforts, supervise the central functioning as well as measure the impact on their communities.

Responsible Outreach

While it’s true that a systemic overhaul and innovative approach is necessary to prevent the further downfall of the health care in the country, one cannot deny that this is an optimistic time for our public and rural healthcare. The new hope in the form of Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Dufloand the changes brought about by them in the healthcare delivery and training in rural Bengal is quite positive.

In this regard, it’s exciting how the role played by organisations like RHCF in uplifting our public health care system is being recognised far and wide. RHCF has been awarded FICCI Healthcare Awards 2019 with Social Initiative Award. Global recognition of RHCF efforts has come from Yale University, Harvard Business School and the UN among others. The Harvard Business School has even published a case study on the organisation.

FalguniNevatia, Supply Head RHCF, has been featured as a Times Women Hero in 2019 by The Times of India and covered by The Weekend Leader. Articles in reputed magazines cover the journey of RHCF stalwarts like AnantNevatia in acknowledgment of the difference they are making in the rural health care scene. Several private associations and government ministries have awarded many RHCF members.

Concrete efforts such as these should be supported and NK Realtors are proud contributors towards this cause as a part of CSR outreach. In association with RHCF, NK Realtors has set up two rural and one urban health care centres and is also involved in the latter’s operational work.

Remedying the rural healthcare ills of India can make a real difference in the life and health of our country. It is not only the government’s prerogative but also the social responsibility of citizens and organisations. With RHCF, one can contribute in their own small ways — the actions that eventually lead to bigger changes.

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