Even as the country dreams of an Ayushmaan Bharat, people of Nellupuram slum are unable to access the facilities offered by Primary Healthcare Centres.
By Yashasvini Razdan
The residents of Nellupuram slum lack access to basic healthcare facilities. The mobile urban health units, announced by former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in 2014, haven’t been brought into effect till date.
Sukhmai, a resident of Nellupuram slum, gave birth to a baby girl on August 8, 2019 at her home, all by herself. Till date she hasn’t been able to go to the hospital and get the baby or herself checked. She said that since her husband had left for work, there was nobody to take her to the hospital and she wasn’t aware of any healthcare centres near her home.
Tirupalamma, another resident, said, “People want to go to government hospitals but some medicines and injections are not available there, so some people go to private hospitals because we need healthcare.” She said that her relative Chinnaiya was recently diagnosed with Dengue and was admitted to C.V. Raman Nagar government hospital but had to buy injections worth Rs. 500 from outside.
Sukhmai and Tirupalamma are among the 240 residents in Nellupuram who are unaware of the announcement of six mobile urban health units under the National Urban Health Mission in 2014 by former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
Mr. Madhu from the City Program Manager Unit in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) said that Nellupuram slum is one among the five outer zones, governed by the Bengaluru Urban District Health Office. Only the three inner zones which were under the BBMP were allotted the mobile health units. The contract was for a period of three years from 2016-2019.
Mr. Madhu said that the mobile health units visit slums and provide primary health checkups to the slum residents. One unit has a doctor, two nurses, one attendant and a driver. These health units are equipped to perform basic lab tests like sugar and blood pressure test. They provide the primary medicine and refer the patients to the nearest Primary Health Centre (PHC).
Dr. Chandrashekhar, the Taluka Health Officer in the Government Hospital, KR Puram said, “The implementation of the mobile health units depends on whether they were sanctioned or not for the said areas.” He said that no mobile health units were available in Bengaluru Urban District. He said that he would talk to the nearest PHC in Vibhutipura to send doctors, once in 10 days, to the Nellupuram slum to checkup on the residents and provide them with primary health care.
Ms. Usha Vanashri, the medical health officer in the Vibhutipura PHC said, “We get 50-60 patients everyday from the nearby areas. We don’t keep a record of the areas where the patients come from.” She said that only Anganwadi and Asha workers go for checkups to the slums. She said that outreach camps were held by specialists like gynaecologists and pediatricians, once in three months. Services like prenatal checkup, immunization for children, regular fever, sputum test for tuberculosis, smear test and school healthcare were all available only in the primary health centre.
However Tirupalamma said, “The Asha workers ask the Vibhutipura PHC to give medicines but the doctor doesn’t give the medicines. They ask us to come to the PHC for check-up. We don’t have money to travel till there so we ask Asha workers to give us some medicines.”
Expert Mr. H Sudarshan who is the Secretary of the Karuna Trust, an organization which deals with providing primary healthcare to those who are unable to access it, said, “PHCs should be located in slums. There is one Urban PHC for a population of 50,000 and sub-centers for every 10,000 people.” He said that the Ashas and ANMs ( Auxillary nurse mid-wife) need to work as a team to ensure that people are aware of the healthcare services and can avail them.
Mr. Madhu said that a proposal to establish mobile medical units for the five outer zones of Bengaluru City, from the BBMP Budget, has been put up by the Chief Health Officer (BBMP). He said that the proposal needs to be approved by the Mayor/Comissioner in order to be passed.