Doctor couple Dr Regi and Dr Lalitha first met each other as student of the Government TD College Alappuzha. After completing their medical training in the early 90’s, the couple worked in a hospital in Gandhigram. It was here that they witnessed people coming from far flung and inaccessible areas for the treatment of preventable illnesses like childhood pneumonia and diarrhea.
The couple was rattled by the lack of medical facilities for these sections of the people and decided to backpack for a year in order to document the most sensitive areas that were in need of help. Their quest led them to Sittilingi. The couple was disconcerted by the sheer lack of medical facilities in this place.
In the case of any medical emergency, the tribals would need to travel to Salem or Dharmapuri. The nearest hospital was at least 50 km away. To find a hospital for surgical intervention, they would have to travel nearly 100 km. this hamlet also had one of the highest infant mortality rates at 150 per 1000 babies. One out of 5 babies in the Sittilingi Valley died before turning a year and a lot of mothers died during childbirth. To make matters more complicated, the hamlet was located in the middle of a forest where buses ran 4 times a day. It would take a walk of several hours to reach the bus stop.
Regi and Lalitha decided to stay in this place and make affordable medical and healthcare services available to Sittiingi’s 2 lakh people. Since they started, it has been 25 years and the couple is steadily moving forward with their initiative titled Tribal Health Initiative (THI). When it started the hospital was nothing more than a hut built by the tribals with a 100 W lamp and a bench for the patient to lie on.
As they progressed, friends and well-wishers donated the funds to build a hospital with 10 beds. Today, the couple has come a long way. The hospital is a 35 bedded one, and has an ICU and a ventilator, a dental clinic, a neonatal room, a labour room, an emergency room, a fully functional laboratory, a modern operation theatre, and all the other facilities that you would find in a state of the art hospital!
Due to the couple’s efforts, the infant mortality rate has dropped to 20 per 1000 births, which is one of the lowest in India. This is a commendable feat worthy of praise.
Image Source: The Better India