Mobile Health Units are ubiquitous to ground realization of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in remote areas of India, as evidenced by the number of health initiatives being rolled out by industries and corporates. At 1:11,082, India’s doctor-population ratio (as per National Health Profile 2018), has a long way to go before reaching WHO’s prescribed 1:1000. But in the small rural fold, Jharsuguda, Vedanta Ltd. is helping reduce dependency on the district’s only Govt. Hospital through its Mobile Health Unit, which has been catering to the primary and preventive medical needs of the community for over a decade now.
Conceptualized in Germany in 1883, the concept of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) has evolved over the decades in many forms. UHC aims to provide a range of essential medical care services, focusing on preventive, curative and promotive health, that are accessible, affordable and financial protection for all. Today, global bodies like WHO and the World Bank have adopted the concept, which found also its place in United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Successful adoption of the concept of Universal Health Coverage at grassroots level has been a rocky road that the 21st century Primary Health Care System in hell bent on overcoming. The India govt.’s comprehensive care plan at primary level includes 12 healthcare services with inclusion of technology and innovation to ensure proper service delivery and continuum of care.
The first step to successful implementation of UHC, PHC remains a proven, equitable, efficient, and effective strategy to deliver the universal fundamental rights of holistic for everyone without stigma and discrimination.
Given the scenario, realization of UHC at grassroots level requires strong collaboration between various stakeholders contributing to the socio-economic development of a country and its people, which includes organizations and industries which have set shop in the various nooks and crannies of the country.
In that regard, the efforts of Vedanta Ltd., Jharsuguda CSR to make basic doorstep healthcare services available to 24 villages and 2 special schools in the rural margins of western Odisha, is an important step towards successful implementation of PHC system at Jharsuguda, which has one district HQ hospital and 106 govt. doctors for Jharsuguda’s 358 villages and 5.94 lakh citizenry.
Speaking to India CSR Network on the same, Abhijit Pati, CEO – Vedanta Ltd., Jharsuguda says, “For the past decade, we have humbly dedicated our MHU to strengthen primary healthcare in our community, attending to nearly 2 lakh medical cases over the decade. Going forward, work is in progress for the upcoming Vedanta Pathology & Diagnostic Centre, a world class state-of-the-art medical facility at Jharsuguda, which will be critical and much needed addendum to the primary healthcare machinery in the region.”
Rural medical care has been a thing of concern for residents in the many villages of Jharsuguda. Limited access to proper medical care, unaffordability of the same, remoteness of the villages, distance from the city centre and financial state of the rural folk, are few of the many factors contributing to the sad state of affairs. Although Jharsuguda’s 1:5600 doctor-population ratio fares way better than the national average of 1:11,082 as per National Health Profile 2018, there is still a long way to go before the district truly imbibes the national PHC vision.
The average distance from rural habitation to the 138 bedded only govt. hospital situated in Jharsuguda City is more than 10 kms, other nearby (good) facilities being as far as 60 kms away. At 6.65 lacs plus OPD registrations in 2018-19, a longstanding CSR project like Vedanta Jharsuguda’s Mobile Health Unit plays a key role in reducing the incidence of preventive diseases, thereby lending critical support to the govt. healthcare machinery in place.
Taking the condition of rural healthcare facility into account, Vedanta Ltd., Jharsuguda’s CSR started the Mobile Health Unit (MHU) in 2008 with the objective to facilitate basic doorstep medical services and minimize incidence of hospitalization in the rural margins of Jharsuguda.
The MHU is a specialized van equipped with required medical equipment and medicines, along with a medical staff comprising a qualified and experienced doctor, nurse, lab technician and pharmacist, for identification, screening, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of patients.
The high risk cases are referred to proper medical facilities and hospitals. Since 2015, the Wockhardt Foundation has been partners to Vedanta Ltd., Jharsuguda in executing the project. The duo have also conducted several multi-specialty health camps like gynaecology, paediatric, cardiology, neurology, gastroenterology, respiratory ailments, diabetes, malaria, dengue, typhoid and skin diseases in collaboration with District Health Dept. and renowned health institutions like Apollo Hospitals, AMRI Hospital, Kalinga Hospital and Burla Medical College, thereby augmenting the govt.’s efforts towards better healthcare of Jharsuguda and its citizenry.
In 2008, the MHU attended to the primary medical needs of 5 core villages, reaching out to 3000 people annually. Today, Vedanta’s MHU visits 24 villages and 2 special schools of Jharsuguda.
As per a pre-determined schedule, the MHU visits each of these villages weekly once where the staff conduct health primary check-ups and disburse medicines free of cost for the same. The MHU team keeps stringent record of all cases for analysis and requisite action. On an annual basis, nearly 25,000 medical cases are diagnosed and treated by the MHU team. This not only helps manage out-patient footfall at Jharsuguda’s only govt. hospital, but also checks medical cases in the initial stages before the disease/infection spreads to the point of no return. Initially the MHU team faced challenges to retain qualified staff and making the van an all-weather outfit. Gradually, the Vedanta CSR team overcame the barriers to emerge the community’s backbone when it comes to primary and preventive healthcare.
Anita Sahoo, Sarpanch, Katikela Gram Panchayat says, “We are extremely pleased with the services provided by Vedanta to our village. We get doorstep health care facilities through MHU which is extremely helpful for the villagers. We sincerely appreciate the responsiveness and efforts of Vedanta towards the development of our village.”
Damayanti Sahu, ex-Chief District Medical Officer, Jharsuguda says, “Vedanta’s Mobile Health Unit which caters to the peripheral villages is an effective & innovative way of providing door-step health service for the poor & slum dwellers in Jharsuguda, especially since these people neither have access to medical facilities nor can afford them. We appreciate Vedanta’s efforts towards community health, and value their continuous support to the govt. health dept. in our various health initiatives like MDD camp (Malaria, Diarrhoea, and Dengue), polio, TB eradication etc.”
Kailash Padhi, senior citizen, Katikela says “The MHU service provided by Vedanta Ltd., Jharsuguda, is a very good initiative that benefits our entire village. As there is no health facility in our village, Vedanta’s MHU is helping the needy and poor people immensely. The MHU doctor and staffs are very friendly. It provides various facilities like blood tests and the medicines provided by them is befitting the people a lot. The MHU vehicle comes to our village every Thursday and spends nearly two hours checking up patients. We are grateful to Vedanta for their MHU service and hope it continues in future as well.”
In a world where nearly half the world population today lack full coverage for essential health services, and this is not limited to developing countries only, in a small corner of Odisha, a corporate’s CSR team is lending a firm helping hand towards realization of UHC at grassroots level.