Providing Medical Care in Howrah, India
Sustain for Life is working with local partner Gloria Dayanand Sevaniketan (GDSN) in the slums of Howrah, India, to regenerate a dispensary for the poor. Initially Sustain for Life will fund life saving drugs, diagnostic tests and critical surgery for those most in need. In the longer run it is proposed to make the charitable dispensary more self-sustaining by setting up and running a diagnostic clinic with increased services including dental treatment and visits by specialist doctors. It is intended that the clinic would be run on a part-commercial basis with those able to pay contributing nominal amounts and any profit being ploughed back into the dispensary to help defray costs to the poorest of the poor. In the tightly packed slums of Howrah disease is rampant, with malnutrition and poor sanitation combining to spread maladies such as malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. The official health infrastructure is hugely overburdened and is hardly able to cope with the demands and is struggling with the burden of tackling endemic diseases and trying to spread awareness of hygiene and preventative health measures. State medical facilities are well out of the reach of the poor of the slums who are largely dependent on the work of local NGOs such as GDSN. The GDSN dispensary for the poor is run out of a single, first-floor room, in the heart of a slum area. The Dispensary is currently open three days per week and, on average, caters for approximately 50-70 patients per day. A panel of three doctors work in rotation, and basic diagnostic tests such as X-Ray and blood tests are performed in a nearby diagnostic clinic at discounted rates (paid for by GDSN). Free medicine is also supplied for treatment of basic ailments. Serious cases are referred elsewhere. A token charge of INR5 or INR10 is levied on each patient, with the money being used to buy milk for malnourished children.