Taking healthcare to hard-to-reach area
Betchari Mukh is a small village on the hills of Khagrachhari district in south-east Bangladesh. The local community, consisting mostly of marginal farmers and their families, lives 9km away from the district town.
It is not always feasible for locals to commute to the nearest hospital at the district headquarters for their medical needs. The Betchari Mukh Community Clinic has now become the centre of health care for the people of the area.
Their day to day medical needs are met single headedly by Antara Talukdar, a community health care provider (CHCP) at the clinic.
Housed in two rooms and an oblong veranda in front, the small community clinic is the only place the locals trust for primary medical care. The path to the clinic is paved, which makes it easier for the patients to walk to and fro.
On a typical day, Antara sees 60-70 patients and provides preliminary medical counselling. The clinic is equipped with 30 types of basic medicine, free of cost.
“I treat my patients for a range of ailments, whether it is for injuries or diarrhoea. Patients come to me whenever they feel ill and a simple medicine can sometimes make them feel better,” she said.
“For patients with more serious symptoms, I refer them to Khagrachhari District Sadar Hospital. But patients mostly come with basic ailments that I can treat with the medicines available,” she added.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has set up community clinics across the country to take health services to people's door steps at every ward. The prospective caregivers have to go through an intensive three month training programme at the sadar upazila before qualifying to be a CHCP.
Sixty-five-year-old Amena Begum of Bhuyachari Guccha village came to the clinic with complaints of cough and cold. The CHCP listened to her complaints and gave her flu medicines.
“I had to come to Antara many times before. The best thing about her is that she listens and understands. I always receive the medicine I need from the clinic,” said Amena.
Mosammat Pipasa, 25, of the same village came in with her seven-month-old son who was running a temperature. Antara had a quick look and immediately gave the child a few drops of syrup to reduce the fever.
“I have been coming here for check-ups ever since my pregnancy,” said Pipasha. “I received all the vitamins I needed throughout my gestation period.”
Birala Chakma, 68, of Betchari Mukh village walked to the clinic feeling dizzy and weak. Anatara checked her blood pressure and gave her some medicines to make her feel better. Birala has been able to keep her high pressure under control with regular visits to the clinic.
Khitish Chandra Chakma, 75, of the same village said the clinic has benefitted the locals immensely.
“Most of the people of the area are poor farmers. If they fall ill, they go to the quack doctor as they are not interested in going to the district hospital. But ever since the community clinic opened, locals are getting the medicine they need, free of cost.”
Dr Uch Shay, upazila health and family planning officer of Khagrachhari Sadar, said there are 12 community clinics in the upazila.
There are six CHCPs who received training on delivery-related health care; Antara is one of them, he added.
“Through these workers, we provide health services to the pre and post-delivery mothers and provide information about childcare. Due to the community clinics, the number of patients visiting the hospital has gone down a notch.”
Living right next door to the clinic, Antara has dedicated her life to better the lives of the people living on the hills as she is a source of comfort and reassurance for them.