Focus: Health

IF health is wealth, the opposite is true for the 100million urban poor in India with little access to medical facilities – a malaise that Chikitsa’s free primary healthcare centres have been set up to cure.

Take Sangam Vihar in south Delhi, for instance. One of Asia’s largest unauthorised colonies with a population comprising truck drivers, migrant workers and daily wage earners, its lack of sanitation and sewage infrastructure makes it a hotbed of communicable diseases.

Without health dispensaries nearby, residents had to travel long distances for affordable treatment till Chikitsa started two daily clinics in separate parts of the colony in 2007, which has benefited 119,914 patients till date and counting.

Chikitsa also diagnosed that the uneducated and economically disadvantaged often rely on quacks and opportunistic medics – who set up practices close to their dwellings – for their treatment.

In 2016, pregnant Fathima, who lives in the capital’s Zakhira slum, fell prey to one such unscrupulous practitioner who had sold her medicines to ensure a “successful birth”. After a couple of weeks she started experiencing sharp pains on her side but when she returned to complain, the ‘doctor’ had disappeared.

Fathima says: “My husband was at work, I didn’t know where to go. I couldn’t even make it home – I just collapsed.” That is when Maya, Chikitsa’s community health worker who lives in the area, rushed her to their satellite clinic where a relieved Fathima was told her unborn baby was safe but that the pills she had been taking were making her ill. She adds: “We thought the medicines would help our child. I know if I hadn’t come to this place both me and my child could have died.”

But dealing with emergencies like this is not what Chikitsa – which means ‘healing’ – was set up to do. It was founded to provide slum dwellers with basic healthcare free of cost, after a one-time registration for Rs 10.

To this end, they now operate out of three base clinics and 11 satellite ones in the Delhi-NCR region, using rent-free premises given to them by local bodies and community organisations to keep running costs to a minimum.

Besides medical care, Chikitsa also conduct workplace safety programmes and health awareness camps for construction workers and their families.

Chikitsa treat 100,000 patients every year and hope to double that figure by 2020. Help them grow their power of healing the most destitute citizens of India – every little bit counts.

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Base Clinics

THEIR first clinic, which started in 1999 in RK Puram, New Delhi, serves 53,000 registered patients, mainly residents of nearby slums. Chikitsa now have three base clinics, two in the capital and another in Gurugram where they are headquartered. Each has a general physician and medical specialists – including a paediatrician, gynaecologist, dentist, physiotherapist, ophthalmologist and homeopath – who attend on a rotating basis. The per patient expenses come up to ₹500.

Artificial Limbs Centre

KIWANIS are a global organisation of volunteers who strive to change the world one child and one community at a time. In collaboration with the Kiwanis Club of New Delhi, Chikitsa run a weekly artificial limbs centre at their base clinic in Gurugram, providing and fitting free limbs – such as the Jaipur Foot and Pune Foot – for the urban poor in the surrounding areas. The centre has served 2,711 people till date.

Satellite Clinics

TO spread the reach of their work, Chikitsa conduct 11 satellite clinics in Gurugram and New Delhi. These provide free consultation services of a general physician and free medicines. Each satellite team also includes a pharmacist, an ambulance driver and a health worker who liaise with the community and alert the team of any patients who require attention but cannot attend the clinic. Last year these clinics treated 39,136 people. Complete patient costs come up to ₹1000 per patient

About Chikitsa

I’m not educated and I don’t know the name of this organisation. But I’ve been coming here for 15-20 years as I have trouble breathing and require regular medication which is free. The doctor explains about the medication and we are treated with dignity.

Nanjan Lal, beneficiary, New Delhi

My neighbour told me and my daughter about Chikitsa clinic. We’ve only been in Delhi for eight months, my family came looking for work. The doctor takes a lot of care and all good medicines are available for us here. I don’t know where else we could go.

Alpana Chakrabarty, beneficiary, New Delhi

  • Udai Malhotra Trustee
  • Col RS Malik (Retd) Chief Operations Officer
  • Dr. Suresh Raina Senior Medical Adviser
  • Yogender Kumar Sharrma Finance Manager