Committed to a calling

Dr Ramana Rao treating a patient.

An old Indian proverb says, “A healthy person has a hundred wishes, but a sick person has only one — to get back his health.” But what if the sick person is too poor to get medical attention? What if he or she is living in a remote village where there is no medical facility whatsoever? For many thousands of such underprivileged patients, this doctor has taken the initiative to provide free medical check-up and medicines, and give them a chance to fight diseases and life-threatening medical conditions.

A committed restorer of their health, Padma Shri awardee Dr Ramana Rao, a consultant physician and cardiologist based in Bengaluru, has been doing this for the past 44 years. During this time, Ramana Rao has treated over two million rural poor at his village clinic in T Begur, which is located 35 km from Bengaluru. His clinic has the distinction of being the world’s oldest and longest-serving free clinic being run every Sunday without a break. Despite having an elite patient list, his deep empathy makes him reach out to the rural poor. “My knee pain was so severe that it was almost crippling. But after getting treated here, I am able to walk without pain and discomfort,” says Srinivasa Gowda of Srinivasapura.

On August 15, 1973, Ramana Rao set up his free clinic for the rural poor and since then, there was no looking back for him. He forged ahead with such deep commitment that now he treats around 1,100 patients every Sunday. On this day, apart from being given free medicine and treatment, patients are also served hot food. Additionally, children are treated with deworming tablets and are given nutrition supplements.

The lack of proper medical facilities and escalating costs of medical care have brought people from over 350 surrounding villages to this clinic. Because of this free healthcare delivery, many of them do not experience any financial difficulties when it comes to medical care. It has not just helped them monetarily but also had a positive effect on their emotional, social and psychological well-being. Ramana Rao is assisted by his wife and their two doctor sons apart from his team of young doctors. There is also a committed team comprising of volunteers from these
villages.

Patients are segregated based on their complaints and then, are led to the respective areas to get assessed, treated and counselled. He has tied up with hospitals and institutions to get facilities like ECG. “Our other healthcare services include oral health and skin care too. The most common problems we see are asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, backache, joint pain, cough and cold, vitamin deficiencies and infections due to the lack of hygiene. These can be cured with basic medicine and proper guidance,” says Ramana Rao.

 It’s not just free healthcare that Ramana Rao and his team provide but also resources to ensure basic facilities in rural areas. For instance, his team has installed 700 toilets for the underprivileged families, ensured that 16 villages get proper access to drinking water, and assisted over 50 schools with basic infrastructure. “The clinic incurs an expenditure of Rs 5 lakh every month. The donations we receive, go directly to the trust we have formed for this purpose, Raj Prakash Trust,” says Ramana Rao. His dedication to ensure that basic healthcare facility is easily accessible to everyone has not gone unnoticed as he has received many awards.

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Committed to a calling

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