Patricia Day Bidinger helps villagers from rural parts of south India secure sound specialized medical care when they travel to large cities through her “Traveller’s Aid” service. This pioneering service is supported by a rural-urban health care infrastructure that Patricia has established to deepen the reach of quality healthcare and medical testing in rural areas.
Patricia’s organisation, Institute of Rural Health Studies (IRHS) operates a health centre inside Hyderabad’s massive bus station that runs the travellers’ aid service. Owing to the location, the centre receives and supports massive number of patients seeking specialist urban medical care from IRHS’ health centres spread across Mehboobnagar and partner clinics and hospitals. Patricia interlinked the different levels of healthcare providers and created and systemized processes, involving counsellors and medical officials in rural areas to create an affordable, quality health care system. Over the years, IRHS has set-up 2 cost-effective primary health centres with basic labs and pharmacies at Dokur and Kotakadra which are run by paramedics. These along with partner hospitals and health centres at village and district levels deepen the reach. As a result, illiterate patients earlier duped by medical personnel in rural areas, now understand and access the right treatments.
The Travellers’ Aid is a one-stop knowledge point where patients access information about hospitals, counsellors, travel routes and other important documentation processes. As part of this, counsellors and IRHS staff help patients choose appropriate options in consideration of expenses and efficiently manage patient histories through the interlinked system. Patient counsellors stationed in various city government hospitals assist patients to access tertiary level care with good specialists, maintain their records and monitor follow up visits. Patients also receive information and counselling on other health subjects such as HIV, reproductive health, and lifestyle at the centre. This system has helped smoothly transition the patients that need secondary or tertiary level care.
Patricia’s patient counsellor program was replicated in Romania many years ago. While, a large number of patients travel from other districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra for treatment, a number of doctors from north India have visited Patricia to understand and replicate her unique and efficient system. Patricia now plans to introduce area-wide health education in schools, televised health education videos in clinics to stimulate thinking about health while waiting to see health personnel.
Note: This was updated in December, 2013. Read on for the ELECTION profile