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Journals from Jan Term Health Care in India

2011-01-12 Swaram Clinics - by Anna Sours

January 7, 2011

Chennai -

Today we had an opportunity to visit a group of facilities that are all connected, run by Swaram Hospital.  Swaram clinics are private facilities that aim to bring healthcare to rural populations. 

            We first visited two of their rural clinics.  These sites provide primary care at little to no cost to patients. They are open 24/7, with doctors and nurses working eight-hour shifts.  Each clinic had small offices for the doctors to see the patients, as well as rooms for patients to stay for longer amounts of time.  The nurses, called “sisters” in India, slept there as well, in one room with metal bunks (some of which had no mattresses).  One of the clinics also had a small kitchen area in this room, and something cooking while we were up there smelled amazing.

            After the clinics, we went to the Swaram Hospital, which was slightly larger.  On the first floor was the ICU, which had no patients at the time.  The beds were all in one room, separated by curtains.  Down the hall was the “operation theater”, which we were allowed to enter once our shoes were removed.  We were all pretty surprised that we were actually allowed in the room, as we would never get that opportunity as a tour group in the U.S. There were many of the workers who had no shoes on – it’s part of the culture here, and many places you will be asked to remove your shoes.  However, seeing people do it in healthcare settings is kind of alarming, we thought.

            Overall, the facilities seem much different than those in the U.S.  Buildings are much older, dirtier, open to the elements, with much older equipment. But the care of the staff is still there, and the dedication the nurses have to their patients is inspiring.

            We visited the diagnostic center last on our tour. After a boxed lunch consisting of cheese, crackers, cookies, and butter balls, we had a Q+A session with the managers of the clinics. This was really interesting and helpful, as well as being very easy to understand.  Some things that were noteworthy were their commitment to providing rural care and their desire to make it more affordable for the clients.  One way they do this is by their network of different facilities offering primary, secondary, and tertiary care to patients. They try to move patients to the facility most appropriate for their needs in order to minimize costs.  Another important aspect of the clinics is to link patients to care by physical proximity, whereas large hospitals like Apollo link metropolitan areas.  This is vital because many rural people don’t have the money, transportation, or social connections necessary to get treatment in large private facilities. 

            One of the highlights of this visit was interacting with the staff of each clinic, who always seemed excited to see us.  Most of the buildings seemed to be low on patients that day, so our visit was a major event.  Everyone was so nice and welcoming, even though language and accent caused problems in communication at times.  Much of the staff would come to watch what was going on, and some even asked to take pictures with us. It was very special to see that everyone came out to wave goodbye as we left the clinics.  Thank you Swaram, for a great visit!

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