A Boon For The Underprivileged

Dr Anil Kanala examining a hypertensive patient

Dr Anil Kanala examining a hypertensive patient


Across Hyderabad, there are four medical camps which are quietly offering service to the weaker sections of society without distinction of caste or creed. Here, free consultations are offered by well-qualified doctors, with free medical tests and medicines, too

In a sparsely furnished, high-ceilinged room at Tulja Bhavan Dharamshala in Kachiguda, Hyderabad, the Harvard Medical School-trained Dr Arun Kanala, a thoracic surgeon, is offering consultations in cardiac care to an underprivileged patient. In another part of the building, a leading cardiologist, France-trained super-specialist Dr Srinivas Movva is performing a 2-D Echo Test on an underprivileged senior citizen. Both these doctors’ services are entirely free of cost i.e. both the consultations as well as medical tests. Dr Srinivas also performs ECG tests on patients in this venue when he deems it necessary.

Prior to these tests, there are volunteers, paramedics and physicians who have conducted diagnostic blood-sugar and blood-pressure tests on the patients before they are sent to the desks of these cardiac specialists.

And in yet another corner of the dharamshala, sits another volunteer dispensing to patients, free of cost-medicines, based on these doctors’ prescriptions. Other volunteers go around offering snacks and water to the waiting patients and their attenders, and additionally, Sai protein-powder packets which contain nutrients (for home-use) to the females among them. And yes, like everything else offered here, these too are not chargeable.

This is the scene at Tulja Bhavan where a free medical-care camp featuring highly qualified doctors in different fields is held every Sunday morning. Homeopathic doctors like Dr RV Krishnamurthy also offer their services. Consultations are offered in general medicine, gynecology, diabetology, etc. Apart from Kachiguda, there are three other similar medical-camps in Hyderabad, namely at Nallakunta, Dilsukhnagar, and Srinagar Colony.

Lakhs of underprivileged persons have benefited so far from the quality medical care offered completely free of cost in the years, even decades, that these four camps have been functioning. Some of these free clinics also have mobile medical vans operating from here which go around to help people who cannot come to this camp. In some camps, lunch or snacks are also offered to patients. All camps are made possible because of free service by medical doctors, paramedics and volunteers.

All camps are conducted by the respective local chapters or Seva Samitis of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations founded by philanthropist and spiritual guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba. These are organised as part of the mission’s motto Service to Man is Service to God. The same organisation also runs mobile clinics and general hospitals across India and two super-specialty hospitals, called Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Prashanti Nilayam, Andhra Pradesh; and Bengaluru, where everything, from consultation to surgery and hospital-stay is all completely free of cost. All the camps and hospitals are open to everyone irrespective of caste or creed.

The biggest free medical camp is on every Sunday morning, at Eswaramma Seva Sadan, Nallakunta, behind Shivam temple. After all, Shivam is the Hyderabad headquarters of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, and a major hub of activity. Every Sunday, consultations offered are in the fields of ENT, general medicine, diabetology, pediatrics, opthalmology, dental care, urology, homeopathy, orthopedics, etc. There is also a laboratory where patients get tests done only on the recommendation of the above doctors, like CBP, thyroid profile, ECG, RBS, blood-sugar, HbAIc, renal profile, LFT, etc. The doctors who offer services include those working at leading corporate hospitals. Some are Dr Koka Rambabu, Dr G. Sreenivasulu, Dr B. Phanimohan Krishna, Dr I.S. Surendra, Dr Raghavachary, Dr J. Ravikumar, Dr Narasimha Rao, and Dr Rathna Kumar. Patients then visit the well-stocked pharmacy where free medicines are given based on the prescriptions of the above doctors.

Two couples, Leela and Raghunath Rao; and Padmaja and Narasimhlu are regular visitors from the past 11 years, to this camp with their in-laws and extended family members. They tell us: “This camp is a boon for us lower middle-class persons. All the needs of our family members for regular medical check-ups, medical tests, medicines and doctor-consultations are met here at this free-clinic. Otherwise, we have to endure long queues at other hospitals or pay big money at private diagnostic centres and hospitals. Now, we visit hospitals only for emergencies and surgeries.” This opinion is echoed by Narsamma, her sister-in-law and their friends, who work as domestic helpers in the surrounding areas.

What motivates these doctors, who are all well-placed in top corporate or government hospitals to come and give their precious free time, on Sundays, to such a service? Each of them gives a different answer but the underlying theme is all about thanksgiving and paying back to society. Dr Srinivas Movva explains: “My guru, Sathya Sai Baba himself prompted me to do this kind of service. This is about showing gratitude to God and society.” Dr Arun Kanala says: “By God’s grace and my parents’ blessings, I have been fortunate to receive education at the best colleges and excellent jobs. I do this service twice a month, purely for the self-satisfaction and joy it gives me.”

In the opinion of ENT specialist, Dr Koka Rambabu: “This camp offers to us doctors, a platform for meaningful and satisfying social service. We are happy to participate in this initiative for helping people who otherwise find it difficult to access high-quality medical care.”

As for Dr B Phanimohan Krishna, he remarks: “I have been taught to see God in all beings so by serving these people I feel I am serving God.” Another doctor who did not wish to be named told us: “I volunteer my services here because I want to show my gratitude to God and my parents by helping less privileged persons via the skills I have.”

The venue of the charitable medical camp run by the Dilsukhnagar chapter, on the mornings of the second and fourth Sunday of every month is Sri Sathya Sai Seva Dhamam, Bhavani Nagar, Road Number 11, Dilsukhnagar. Free consultations are offered for diabetes, thyroid problems, and in general medicine. Occasionally, specialists in gynecology and opthalmology also offer their services. Tests conducted regularly include HbA1C, RBS, BP, etc. Free medicines are distributed as per these volunteer-doctor prescriptions. The doctors serving here include Dr Uday Nayak, Dr Mukesh Rao, Dr Prasuna and Dr Sarojini. Sai Protein powder packets are given for use at home.

Another camp is conducted by the Ameerpet Samiti of the Sai organisation every alternate Sunday at Sri Sathya Sai Nigamagamam premises, Srinagar Colony, Hyderabad. There is free service in the form of consultation by doctors, free diagnostic tests like BP and RBS and dispensing of prescription-based free medicines to registered patients in the BPL segment. Patients who avail of this service reside within a three-kilometres radius of the free clinic.

The focus is on health-management of elderly patients who suffer from diabetes and/or hypertension. Apart from a group of volunteers, the doctors at this free-clinic include Dr Racharla Radha Krishna, Dr M Kishan Rao and Dr Kavitha. This centre also has a mobile dental bus with two dental chairs which provides free dental care for identified school children located in various districts of Telangana. The Samiti also conducts eye-camps occasionally.

The fact that all camps accept walk-in patients and without distinction of caste or creed makes them very approachable to the public. These camps offer easy and quick registration for patients, are very clean and also centrally located in areas well-connected by public and private transport.

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