Series of health camps for media fraternity rolls on

By Nava Thakuria

A unique weekly healthcare initiative has been taken up by a press club in northeast India, where practicing physicians are being invited to the club premises for preliminary free health screening and ensuing consultations. Various physical tests of weight, hypertension, blood sugar, hemoglobin, bone density, pulmonary function, thyroid level etc are often conducted during the out-patient-department (OPD)  clinics for diagnosing the health status of journalists along with their families. It follows necessary persuasions for proper treatment in need.

Meet Basundhara (not her real name) who occasionally comes to Guwahati Press Club for meeting media friends. Engaged in the news desk of a popular Assamese newspaper, Basundhara has friends from both the print and television media. They happily hang out at the press club premises. In one of her such visits, she was asked to check her thyroid level in the weekly clinic. Reluctantly Basundhara gave blood samples to the attending health workers. She also got her blood pressure & sugar checked in the camp, which was found normal. Next day, as the laboratory reports arrived at the press club office, Basundhara was informed to receive her pathological account. Astonishingly she was diagnosed with high thyroid (stimulating hormone) level. After consultations with an attending doctor,
Basundhara found the reason for her recent unusual weight gaining and also losing of her energy & joyfulness. For her consolidation, thyroid disorders can be treated with proper medical intervention and she comes to know that every fourth Indian today suffers from thyroid related problems.

Sailesh (name changed) normally comes to the press club only when there is a meeting of media persons as he lives at the outskirt of Guwahati. Once he arrives, Sailesh continues his natural lecturing with me on numerous issues irrespective of my interest. Not young at his age now, Sailesh he is a confirmed bachelor and claims that his big family would support him always. In one of our Saturday media clinics Sailesh casually checked his blood pressure. The nurse widened her eyes looking at the meter. Sailesh was diagnosed with hypertension (almost 180 by 110 mmHg). The attending doctor wanted to check his pressure and did it personally. The outcome remained the same (and alarming).

The doctor asked if Sailesh had checked his pressure earlier. The answer was a big no. He had never checked it and justified his point that ‘listening to doctors was an unnecessary exercise as he had always enjoyed good health condition’. He even denied accepting his blood pressure readings. The doctor, much younger to Sailesh, tried to
convince him that it was very dangerous to live with such high BP as it could cause great harm to him. Finally he paid attention to the doctor and even though refused to take medicines.

After almost a week, Sailesh came to the press club again. This time he looked little depressed with untidy dresses. Sailesh had a story to narrate. Two days back, fell down at his home and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where the attending doctors cautioned him about his hypertension. Sailesh survived this time with no internal injuries. He
admitted his guilt for not taking the doctor’s advice earlier and now he started using medicines regularly.

A number of similar cases with irregular physical health parameters were diagnosed after the active press club endeavored the mission. Housing nearly 300 regular members who are professional journalists  working for local, national and international media outlets, the press club organizes many regular programs like ‘Meet the Press’, ‘Guest of the Month’, ‘Media Fellowship’ etc. The four-decade old club also celebrates India’s Independence & Republic Day regularly.

The series of weekly health camps under the  banner of ‘Evening with a Doctor’ soon emerges as an important initiative for the press club members along with their dependants. Started with initial supports from Dr Jayanta Bardoloi, managing director of Assam’s well known Dispur Hospital in raising a doctor’s chamber at the club premises in August 2016 the endeavor has completed 75 sittings and helped diagnosing many journalists and their family members with various health disorders.

Till date, most of the hospitals based in Guwahati, an emerging healthcare hub in eastern India, have supported the initiative by sending their practicing physicians in rotation for the media clinics. Professional doctors from Down Town Hospital, GNRC Hospitals, Dispur Hospital, Nemcare Hospital, Hayat Hospital, Ayursundra Hospital, Sun
Valley Hospital, Barthakur Clinic, Wintrobe Hospital, Narayana Hospital, Rahman Hospital, Excelcare Hospital, Sight First Eye-Clinic among others have attended the camps. Even specialists from various distinguished healthcare institutions, based in other parts of the country, like Apollo Hospital (Chennai), SIMS Chennai Hospital, Manipal Hospital (Bangalore), Fortis Hospital (Bangalore), Medanta the Medicity Hospital (Gurgaon) among others have
graced the camps. They were simultaneously encouraged by the post-event coverage in both the mainstream and alternate media outlets.

Abhinandan (not his real name), a young photo journalist died of a massive heart attack out of high blood pressure. He got recently married and had a minor baby. Everything was normal for Abhinandan on the fateful day. He felt little uneasy in the morning hours and so preferred to take rest at home. But his physical conditions only deteriorated. Finally he was admitted to a local hospital where he died next day. “Abhinandan never attended the free OPD clinics at our club. He always avoided the camp arguing that the doctors would discover some diseases
in me. Better I am happy now,” said a press club office assistant adding that Abhinandan might have never checked his health status. A simple check for hypertension and subsequent medication could have saved his life, he asserted.

Expressing profound grief at his untimely demise, the Journalists’ Forum Assam urged every media person to take care of his/her health. In a statement, the scribe’s forum asked the media fraternity to take advantage of the weekly health camps of the press club. Otherwise, they should ensure similar healthcare consultations in alternative
places, commented the forum.

It may be noted that around 90% of media persons in the alienated region remain out of medical insurance coverage. Most of the journalists, engaged with regional newspapers and news channels, earn small salaries and nominal other benefits. Hence, they can barely afford healthcare expenditures and end up depending on government facilities, often reported incompetent. In many cases, when the medical emergencies strike their families, they have no options other than asking for financial supports from well wishers. Even though the camps are primarily organized for the benefit of press club members with their relatives, any journalist with his/her dependants is welcomed to participate in the clinics.  At the same time, other media organizations of the alienated region are also being encouraged to take similar initiatives for enhancing the health status of their supports and eventually empowering the healthcare journalism in the country.

The author is an Assam based journalist

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