Raman Kumar "at my ancestral rural village in Bihar India"

Raman Kumar is the Young Doctor Representative on WONCA World Executive - he writes about his Family Doctor day experience. Photo above : 1st Bihar State Family Medicine Conference 29th May 2016 Patna Bihar Pic

It was a coincidence but a privilege that I was visiting my ancestral rural village Khojauli on World Family Doctor Day - 19th May 2016. The poor status of healthcare infrastructure in my native place was one of the major inspirations for me becoming a doctor in first place and now working towards development of a robust primary care system in India. I was born and brought up in a joint family in a small town of Chhapra which is located in the Bihar state of India. Khojauli village is located 35 km from the district headquarters of Chhapra. Due to my current role in public health advocacy, recently I have started taking a closer look at existing status of health system in different parts of India. This time I took efforts to visit healthcare facilities in the nearby areas in my native place, talk to people and observed the general status of the infrastructure.

Photo: Rural roads in Bihar

During my trip the first noticeable thing was the condition of rural roads. It was satisfying to see that the condition of roads is much better than what I had anticipated. The road from Chhapra to khojauli used to be nothing more than mud and bricks with deep pot holes not long back. Most of these roads have been built under the national prom of infrastructure development called “Prime Minister Rural Road Project”. The next change apparent was the availability of electricity. There is significant progress on rural electrification and its availability. The Primary Health Center (PHC) is now housed in a new and much larger building. The new building reflects the achievement of a yet other program – National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) which sought to improve the health care infrastructure across 18 poor performing states in India. Staff members were present and the maternity ward was functional.

I also had an opportunity to meet a female doctor who had joined on the same day. She drove all the way from the state capital Patna. During the brief chat I came to know that her home salary is less than half of what a medical officer gets in a city like Delhi. Clearly there is a need to look at the strategy to retain doctors at rural healthcare facilities.

Photo: New Building of the Primary Health Centre

I was also able to meet people and few patients. These included a hypertensive elderly woman, a middle aged man with filarial scrotal tumor, a woman with hypothyroidism and anxiety, a woman with vertebral disc issues, uterine prolapse and hypothyroidism. Though the facilities at the public health system, has improved but the many of the existing morbidities are not addressed in the government sponsored vertical health programs delivered through the PHC. Therefore they have to visit private doctors for treatment. Many having chronic health issues prefer to the state capital Patna for medical treatment.

The other big surprise was existence of a huge eye hospital called “Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital” (see photo at right)  run by a charitable trust. Located in the extreme rural location, this healthcare facility has been able to attract specialist doctors and has become a very popular site for eye surgeries.

World Family Doctor day turned out to be one of my super days at my rural ancestral village. I plan to visit more frequently in future and engage with some local primary care projects. I returned back to Bihar (Patna) after ten days later on 29th May 2016 to participate in the 1st Bihar State Family Medicine Conference which turned out to be a grand success under the able leadership of Dr Sonia Singh the president of AFPI (Academy of Family Physicians of India) Bihar chapter. It was an excellent opportunity to witness the primary care physicians taking center stage of academics in my home state in India.

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