Karnataka’s Doctor Who Helped Keep Hearts Beating In The Times Of Covid-19
For the past two years, a large network of cardiologists formed by one from Mangaluru and his brainchild Cardiology At Doorsteps (CAD) have been working to ensure no patient in rural Karnataka, who has a heart issue, loses his life because of a lack of cardiac care facilities.
When an Indian Army medical officer, serving in a remote location in the dense forests of the country’s north-eastern borders, sends a 'thank you' note to a cardiologist, working in a hospital in Mangaluru, for helping him save the life of a jawan, one wonders how this could have possibly happened.
Thanks to a unique initiative by Dr Padmanabha Kamath, many lives have been saved.
When he is not mending people’s hearts literally, this cardiologist in Mangaluru is busy on his phone helping people’s hearts beat again – one WhatsApp message at a time.
Dr Kamath has been running CAD for two years – Cardiology at Doorsteps – a unique initiative of bringing cardio care to patients in rural India. He spends most of his time responding to countless WhatsApp messages on the numerous groups that he has created to connect doctors from across the country.
It is a WhatsApp-based helpline that has hundreds of doctors and specialists connecting to each other to help people live, thanks to timely intervention and expert advice, which otherwise would not be available in such pockets where all they have is probably a primary health care centre.
This has led to over 10,000 ECG tests, 2,500 heart attacks being reported and over 10,000 lives saved. But the noblest of these has been what he has been able to do for the soldiers serving in difficult terrains across the country.
“Say in high altitude areas like Draas you don’t have cardiologists posted in all hospitals and hence they may not have the option to get the ECG reported by a cardiologist. So MBBS doctors hold the fort and need assistance, this is where we come in. They post the ECG and we report them and our network of specialists help them take the right decisions, even in the middle of the night,” says Kamath, explaining how the CAD, which has doctors from over 250 military hospitals connected, works.
But this is just one part of the work CAD does. Its larger effort is in the rural network of cardiology services it has been able to extend to in the villages of almost all districts of Karnataka and few others in states like Maharashtra.
After a patient of his lost his life as he could not avail timely cardiac care, and was around 150 kilometres away from an ECG machine, this cardiologist from Mangaluru decided to build a network of cardiologists and doctors, who would make sure expert advice is available to anyone in need in the remotest of corners of the state and so are ECG machines to enable early diagnosis.
What started as a group with just over a hundred cardiologists in February 2018, today has more than 2,000 across the country, reading reports, providing timely advice and instructions for care and connecting to nearest cardiac care facility.
Through CAD and help from donors, philanthropists and patients who have benefitted from the service of CAD Kamath has been able to distribute 275 ECG machines to primary health care centres, private clinics and government hospitals in rural pockets of the state so far.
“Our dream is to have ECG machine in every village, for every 50 kms,” says Dr Kamath.
With Covid-19 pandemic around, the effort has come as a godsend to a lot of patients who found it difficult to access doctors, hospitals and clinics.
“People were afraid to come out making things worse for themselves. But our CAD had no lockdown we functioned 24/7 and ensured people could be treated wherever they were,” says Kamath, who has helped add 60 ECG machines in the Covid times itself.
Between Lockdown 1 and Unlock 1, when movement of people was restricted leaving most cardiac patients hassled, the group, which received 210 reports on the group, helped around 204 people with timely diagnosis and treatment suggestions and saved their lives.
In a first in the state, a Jan Aushadhi Kendra has also been provided with an ECG machine in Mangaluru, and Kamath wishes the government and corporates support this effort so everyone, who needs such emergency cardiac care in the country especially the hinterlands that have no access to such specialised health care, can also be provided with these diagnosis equipment.
All 13 primary health centres of his hometown Karkala have been provided with ECG machines by CAD and are connected to the tele-WhatsApp helpline. The team has been able to install 250 ECG machines in 20 districts of Karnataka and recently received support from Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, who instructed health department officials to help Kamath install them at the remaining 100 districts too that were facing difficulties.
For now, the butterfly effect is working its magic as those who have recieved help from the group are also pitching in to make ECG machines available in their villages and rural pockets.
“The reach and connect that we have been able to establish in Karnataka is what should be replicated across the country. We had plans too but with the pandemic we haven’t been able to see all those through. If our government supports and our philanthropists from every part of the country help extend this model, it sure can save a lot of people from dying from what is one of the leading causes of death in the country,” says a hopeful Kamath.
(The helpline number is 97432-87599)
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