Outpatient Clinic (OPC)
The outpatient clinic is part of the health centre run by our partner organization S.B. Devi Charity Home. Since its creation in 1991 the outpatient clinic in the centre of Kolkata’s old town has achieved a good reputation and has become an essential part of the local medical basic care. The offers are centred towards the poorer parts of the population and also focus on preventive work.
On site, a team of Indian doctors offers consultations and treatments during six days per week. Besides occidental medicine (allopathy) they also practice homeopathy and traditional Indian medicine, ayurveda. All doctors have paid jobs in hospitals or private practices. At the health centre they only receive a symbolic salary. Because of the doctors’ solidary support it is possible to offer treatments and medication for free.
In the outpatient clinic, 10'000 treatments are performed per year, about half of them using occidental medicine. Occidental medicine’s global predominance is mirrored in the outpatient clinic’s activities, but it is a big progress that two other disciplines are being offered besides allopathy and used for a good number of treatments.
Meanwhile, doctors and patients can benefit from professionalism and from a vast store of experience. Still, there is a lot of potential for development and no shortage of ideas for new investments. Financial support from Switzerland will be needed in the future as well, so that the outpatient clinic can continue serving for unprivileged people in the heart of Kolkata.
Public Health in a Prostitute Area (PHPA)
In close proximity to our Health Centre in North Kolkata, there is the prostitute area of Sonagachi. About 50’000 people are living there in extreme poverty and cramped space; most of them are “commercial sex workers” (CSWs). The main reason for initiating the PHPA program in 1998 was the fact that the CSW hardly left their district to obtain medical care due to their stigmatization and social marginalization. Over the years, the program has been well established in the district, and is widely appreciated and accepted thanks to the PHPA team’s remarkable work.
The PHPA program offers basic health care directly in the Sonagachi area. Medical exams are carried through, patients receive counselling and attendance, and homeopathic medication and contraceptives are handed out. The PHPA not only provides basic care but also stresses educational and preventive work. This includes personal counselling on nutrition, hygiene, HIV/Aids and other sexually transmittable diseases. In addition to this, there are regular public information presentations and collective events, for example group discussions or theatre performances addressing and imparting health themes with the CSWs as actors. During the consultations, social support of the CSWs is stressed next to medical attendance. In this spirit the program organizes activities and events for the CSWs, like meetings and excursions, to offer the women an occasion to forget their every day life for a moment and be amongst themselves.
Through all these activities, the program has become an important social and medical institution in the Sonagachi area, not only for the CSWs but also for their children and for other residents of the area. These conditions form a solid basis for plans to advance the program: in the future we will try to implicate further players of the prostitution trade in order to expand the program sustainability and additionally advance aids prevention.
Mother and Child Health Care (MCH)
The program was created in 1991 and addresses mainly pregnant women, mothers and their children up to the age of 5. In the context of the program, services in the fields of basic health, prevention and health counselling are offered.
The curative part consists of medical attendance of women during and after pregnancy through regular examinations, counselling and other support. For delivery, the women are referred to nearby hospitals that have contractual agreements with SBDCH. Children are attended to by paediatricians up to the age of 5 because childhood mortality is higher until this age. After that, they can access the services of the OPC. Recently, vaccinations for mothers and children have been added to the program.
The Awareness Camps arranged by MCH have preventive and curative aspects. They take place in poorer quarters in and around Kolkata, and on this occasion the inhabitants can be examined and counselled free of charge.
The preventive part encompasses regular group consultations. Here, a gynaecologist or nutritionist gives a lecture on a subject from the domains of hygiene, nutrition, illnesses or birth control. After that, the women who participate can ask questions and discuss their problems and concerns with the specialist. In this way, the women are actively included in the preventive work, and it is possible to detect and adjust wrong ideas about these themes. The women can acquire a basic knowledge that they can use in everyday life and transfer to their children. By focussing on the mothers, MCH comes in where knowledge on health and nutrition is applied and spread. Events on Mothers’ Day and Women’s Day intend to strengthen the public image of mothers and women and to help them obtain more self-esteem and self-determination.
Health Check-up for Schoolchildren (HCPSC)
School classes of different schools in the slums of Kolkata are regularly examined (and treated, if necessary) by doctors’ teams, similar to a school health service. Besides curative treatment, preventive work is another important part of the HSPSC program. The main focus is on education concerning hygiene, nutrition and HIV. A strong cooperation with teachers and parents should enhance the program’s sustainability.
The HSPSC program can be compared to the Swiss school health service. Doctors from our Indian partner association SB Devi Charity Home visit schools in North Kolkata and in the surrounding area on a regular basis and perform a health check up for every child to discover possible sicknesses or deficiencies. Along with primary schools, secondary schools and colleges, also schools for mentally disabled children benefit from this program. If the children cannot be treated on site, they are referred to our outpatient clinic or to partner hospitals.
In addition to the regular examination of school children, there are informative and educational meetings on hygiene, nutrition and HIV. In order to enhance the cooperation between the doctors’ team, teachers and parents, consultations for parents and teachers are offered as well. Thus, the HSPSC program not only supports diagnostic investigation but also centers on prevention that will be groundbreaking in the future as well.
The data of the children who are examined yearly in the HSPSC framework and of their treatments are being used for statistical reporting. These data are helpful for a better understanding of the situation and are indispensable for our activities in the fields of health analysis and medical care for the children.
Recognition and support for the HSPSC team is also provided by the Indian government, particularly concerning organizational matters.
In the red-light district Sonagachi in Kolkata countless children of commercial sex workers (CSW) grow up under very difficult conditions. Konika Kindergarten was therefore opened in 2002. Since then, it has been offering a safe place and caring support to these children on three afternoons a week.
However, since the mothers work mainly in the evening and at night, there is a great need to extend childcare to night-times. Therefore, in August 2009 the kindergarten was extended by the Night Shelter. It is open from Monday to Saturday from 4 p. m. and enables children between the ages of 4 and 12 to stay overnight on site. During this time the children are supported with their homework, but also play, dance, sing, eat and much more. In addition, there are regular awareness raising events for mothers and/or children that focus on nutrition, education, hygiene and social behavior.
At the moment there are about 30 children attending kindergarten and 17 children attending Konika Night Shelter. The program manager in Kolkata has a very good, almost maternal, relationship with "her" children. One of the main objectives of the project is to support children in their school development to provide them an alternative route to prostitution and criminal activities.
Outside opening hours, the responsibility of the children remains with the mothers. It is important to us that they are also involved in the activities of Konika so that an improvement of the children's living conditions can be achieved through a joint effort.