Free for all!

Free medical camps conducted by the alumni of Sri Sathya Sai University have benefited lakhs of people, writes Aruna Chandaraju.

At a classroom in Kadugodi Govt Junior College, D Seethalakshmi is receiving a quick lesson in oral hygiene. But no, she is no academic student nor is she being tutored by a college teacher. As part of the monthly medical camp organised at this venue by the alumni of Sri Sathya Sai University, the illiterate Seethalakshmi has not only been given a free consultation from a dentist and a month’s supply of toothpaste and medicines, but also advice on oral health.

Quietly but very effectively, this camp is doing substantial work in the provision of good-quality, zero-cost medical care to the underprivileged. At every camp, held first Sunday of each month, about 2,000 patients are given free medical treatment, provided a month’s supply of medicine free of cost, and served free lunch before they leave. The diabetics are additionally provided breakfast. Since these camps have been functioning for the past 11 years, lakhs of people have benefited from them.

About 30 doctors (and an equal number of nurses) representing specialties like orthopedics, general medicine, pediatrics, gynaecology, ophthalmology, ENT, dentistry, etc., and 60 alumni members have been working to keep this camp running month after month all these years. The doctors, all volunteers, are either successful private practitioners or faculty members at some of Bangalore’s best hospitals.

The Bangalore-based alumni take care of onsite arrangements like setting up clinics with the necessary equipments, organising doctors’ transport, purchasing medicines, stocking pharmacies, organising lunch for patients, etc.

However, the huge amount of finance needed for a philanthropic venture of this kind is met by these Bangaloreans as well as other alumni scattered across India and abroad. The camp is supported solely by Sathya Sai University alumni of the four colleges at Bangalore, Puttaparthi, Allike and Muddanahalli.

Once the consultation is over, patients receive a packet with a month’s supply of medicines. As for treatments which can’t be done here, like advanced procedures or surgeries, the patient is referred to the nearby Sathya Sai General Hospital or the bigger Sathya Sai super-speciality hospital, since both these institutes function on a zero-cost-to-the-patient policy.

The very few cases which can’t be dealt with at either are referred to private hospitals where the alumni and doctors use their contacts to arrange for free-of-cost treatment or at least treatment at a very nominal rate.

By noon, the queues have dwindled as consultations/ treatments are mostly over and lunch is being served. Menu for the lunch is also planned carefully, so that it is nutritious.

Significantly, many of the doctors are not devotees of Guru Sathya Sai Baba. They come here impressed by the concept and inspired by its noble aim to contribute their own bit to society.

Among the patients too, many have never even seen the Guru. And they all belong to different religions, castes and regions. Such is the reputation of the camp that it draws patients not only from the various parts our State, but also from the four neighbouring states.

However, all the patients are full of gratitude for this camp which, they say, has made a great difference to their lives. There are some families whose entire medical needs are being met here for years now. Another remarkable feature of this camp is the readiness of doctors to treat multiple ailments of the same person – and with patience at that.


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