Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Health Clinic in Rait

After the success of the women’s health clinic in our Naddi centre, made possible by our partnership with Fortis Hospital in Kangra, EduCARE decided to bring a similar clinic to the Rait centre. Rait is one of EduCARE’s newest centres and very little is known about the local women’s current health status. So with preparations being made for the upcoming clinic day, it was the perfect time to investigate what kinds of health concerns local women have, what kinds of health services are available to them and how they go about acquiring health care. We began engaging women in conversations about their health and healthcare practices, and I was struck by how different a Rait woman’s experience with health services was from my own.

Back home, in Australia, I have a very good relationship with my G.P. I see her every six months for a check-up and to discuss my overall well-being; diet, fitness levels, immunity, reproductive and sexual health, mental health and any niggling little ailment that might be bothering me. Waiting times rarely exceed twenty minutes, and we meet in a comfortable, private consultation room. She knows my health history and can conveniently recall the details of past tests or prescriptions, etc., which are all recorded electronically. She carefully explains prescriptions, giving clear instructions on dosages and side-effects. Her manner is warm and patient as she allows me time and space to ask questions or express concerns. She reminds me when my next pap-test is due, and makes sure I’m up-to-day with flu shots. It’s this long-term relationship with my G.P. that provides me with holistic and complete healthcare.

From what the local women of Rait have told me, their experience is very different. Firstly, women don’t attend regular check-ups. Seeking medical services is reserved for the most severe problems or only when ongoing conditions deteriorate to an extent that they can’t be ignored. Most women priorities their domestic responsibilities or their children’s wellbeing over their own health. Going to the Dr for a minor complaint is seen as self-indulgent and a waste of time and money.

There is no personal, on-going relationship with health care providers. In fact, there are no G.P.s. Women receive medicines and advice from local clinics or dispensaries, or visit the local hospital’s out-patient department. Waiting times can take hours, even at private hospitals. Consultations are short and rushed, and only deal with most pressing complaints. Follow-up consultations are rarely performed by the same medical staff, so it’s up to the patient to remember their own medical history and repeat it several times.

For serious or ongoing concerns, women often visit multiple services and receive contradictory advice or duplicate prescriptions. Tests are often recommended, but rarely performed, and if performed but found to be negative, then additional tests are even rarer. Dispensaries often sell only the exact amount of pills that have been prescribed. This means pills are removed from their original packaging and information such as dosage instructions or side effects are only verbally communicated, if at all. Clinics and dispensaries offer no privacy or confidentiality and so health concerns that are considered taboo, such as sexual or reproductive health concerns, are often avoided or ignored. All of these things add to make women feel uncomfortable and inconvenienced when seeking medical services.
Women waiting to be received by the doctor during the health camp  in Rait

It’s no wonder women neglect their health.

EduCARE believes that women have a right to adequate health information, advice and care and that valuing women’s health is one way we can address entrenched gender inequalities in the villages in which we work. This is why our ongoing health projects are so important. EduCARE is able to act as the link between patients and services.

The health clinic held in Rait on the 12 July provided women with a different kind of healthcare experience. They were given a comprehensive check-up performed by two trained nurses, and a free consultations with a multi-specialist Dr in a private consultation room. The very friendly Dr Arka was warm and sincere as she tended to her patients. We scheduled appointments to reduce waiting times and had plenty of friendly faces to make small talk in the waiting room. Only female Fortis and EduCARE staff were present, so that the women felt comfortable and relaxed.

Katherine with the Kangra Hospital staff in one of the consultations
Our plan is to repeat health clinics every three months to ensure the women receive the ongoing healthcare they need. EduCARE provides follow-up support between clinic days too, to see if the women need any help in following the Dr.’s recommendations. Do they need someone to accompany them to get tests done? Did they understand the advice that was given on clinic day? Are they aware of the services their government issued health cards entitle them to? We also intend to design future health projects based on the information we’ve gathered about the women’s health needs. For example a prevenance of kidney stones amongst women who attended the clinics in both Naddi and Rait suggests the need for an awareness campaign about the importance of drinking water.

Health camps are just the beginning, and we have big plans for EduCARE’s health program.

Katherine Woolnough - Australia
Young Women's Association project manager, Rait (HP)

No comments:

Post a Comment