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  Social Responsibility

Published on: Feb. 13, 2020, 2 p.m.
Access to affordable healthcare is still a challenge in India
  • A Sathya Sai child heart Sanjeevani hospital

By Jatinder Handoo. The author is is CEO, Digital Lenders Association of India (DLAI)

All of us, as individuals or organisations, have a responsibility towards nation-building, whether in terms of the work we do, the impact we create or the causes we associate ourselves with. In my area of work, analysing returns on investments is basic, but there is another kind of investment in which the returns are multifold, given how significant its impact is – it is the social investments we do, the returns of which touch several lives. This is where my organisation and my association with Sri Sathya Sai Health and Education Trust comes in. The Trust works extensively in areas of health, education, and livelihood. Sri Sathya Sai Health and Education Trust has opened hospitals at a number of places in India for the treatment of congenital heart disease at the Sanjeevani Child Heart Centres.

Access to affordable quality healthcare is still a challenge in India. While efforts are being made at the government level and through various policies, there is a lot of ground to cover. When it comes to paediatric and child healthcare, there is a significant gap in infrastructure and skillset in treating complex diseases. One such is Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), a defect in the heart of a child which affects her quality of life and survival. Three lakh children are born every year in India with CHD, and 25 per cent of them will not live to see their first birthday, due to a lack of timely diagnosis, or access to competent and affordable treatment.

A heart surgery for a child in India can cost anything between Rs2 to Rs5 lakh, which the common man cannot afford and the waiting list in Government hospitals is long. Sanjeevani addresses this issue by providing world-class treatment totally free of cost to all citizens. The hospital does not have a billing counter.

I am passionately and actively involved with this cause and Sri Sathya Sai Trust. Also, under our CSR initiative, we have partnered with them for this important initiative which focusses on the safety and well-being of the children of this country. It is immensely satisfying to visit the Sanjeevani hospitals and to meet the children there. It reinforces my belief in the importance and impact of seva in our lives.

Serving humankind is serving God. The reason why this cause is close to our hearts is because we believe in the fact that ‘children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future’. We can only hope for a bright future when we as a society and as a country work towards their betterment. One of the most satisfying things is being able to provide the Gift of Life by supporting an ailing child and saving her from a disease like CHD. The child whose life is saved today may grow up to be an asset to the country or simply be a responsible citizen who pays it forward by contributing to national welfare and serving others in need. An inclusive approach ensures last mile connect, which is possible when there is an equitable opportunity and access to all, whether in mutual funds, where we work towards financialisation or in the case of providing affordable and quality healthcare as is possible through associations with entities such as Sanjeevani hospitals.

The Sanjeevani Centre for Child Heart Care was established in 2012 in Naya Raipur, Chhattisgarh and now has new centres in Palwal, Haryana and Kharghar, Navi Mumbai. These are dedicated Paediatric Cardiac Hospitals with world-class operation theatres and Cath labs which have treated patients from 30 states in India and many developing countries in Asia and Africa. Sanjeevani has worked with dedication towards providing accessible healthcare to citizens. They provide services from diagnostics to open-heart surgery to post-operative care totally free of cost. Food, accommodation of patients and their attendants is also provided free of charge.

Sanjeevani has managed over 90,000 outpatients and performed over 9,600 open heart surgeries and Cath interventions in the past seven years. Over 90 per cent of the cases treated at Sanjeevani are families who could not have afforded this treatment. This specialised treatment not only gives a second life to the child but also enables her to lead a normal life. There are several success stories of these children at Sanjeevani who, post-treatment, have pursued their dreams and excelled. These children have fought a battle at a very young age and this makes them both resilient and strong-willed.

The selfless service rendered and the gift of life received from society inspires thousands of families to give back to society and nurture children to be ideal citizens which itself is an impact which cannot be measured. Many eminent personalities have come forward to help. Recently, cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar pledged to support the surgeries of 34 children with CHD to mark the 34 test centuries he has made. One hopes to see more people coming forward to champion this noble initiative.

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