A green umbrella of trees greets people driving from Bastar to Bijapur in Chhattisgarh. With over 6500 sq km of dense forests, rocky hills and the Indravati river flowing through it, this district is rich in flora, fauna and minerals, and home to several wildlife species like tigers and panthers. It also happens to be one of the ‘aspirational districts’ across India low on the development frontier, earmarked for social and economic transformation to come on par with the more progressive districts in the state.
A part of Bastar division in the state’s southernmost region bordering Telangana and Maharashtra, the area is a hotbed of Naxalite activity. Its residents, mostly tribals, had to travel 160 km to the hospital in neighbouring Jagdalpur for emergencies like a cesarean surgery and other simple medical procedures. Because there simply weren’t enough qualified and trained doctors who were ready to risk their lives and come and work at the district hospital in Bijapur.
But all that changed in 2016 when Bijapur got a new District Collector. Apart from being an IAS officer from the 2009 batch, Ayyaj Tamboli was a doctor himself and came with an insider’s instinct and understanding of how best he could remedy the situation.
His first port of call was to upgrade the ill-equipped district hospital, using funds from the National Health Mission and the District Mineral Funds. With a new ICU, two new operation theatres, a blood bank, a 150-bed facility, a spacious maternal and child healthcare unit, and other advanced equipment in place, all they needed were trained doctors, specialists and paramedical staff who could do justice to these.
Tamboli decided to directly appeal to his fellow doctors by harnessing the power of social media. He shared a post on platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp, which was widely circulated.
The post piqued the interest of the medical community across India, especially the younger lot in their late 20s and early 30s. “Within three days of posting the appeal, I received 46 resumés from specialists and 66 resumes from MBBS doctors who were ready to come here,” he said.
Today, the number of doctors in the district has almost tripled — from seven in 2016 to 20 in 2017. The Bijapur District Hospital has won 2nd place in the Kayakalp Awards 2017-18 for health facilities instituted by the National Health Mission.
The hospital treated almost 1 lakh patients in 2017-18. It has a 24×7 provision for child-birth, free radiology and physiotherapy, as a result of which, the hospital handled 1,200 childbirth cases, of which 199 were cesarean surgeries in the same time period.
It also conducted 2,000 other operations, including laparoscopic surgery, for free. In fact, the success of the model has prompted authorities to implement it in other Naxal-affected districts in the state which also face a similar shortage of good doctors.
The Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh made significant strides by improving 14.7 points and ranked 6th in Delta ranking, improving from 45th position in Baseline ranking.