A new name for children in rural and semi-urban India is on the rise. In certain areas of AP and Karnataka, parents are beginning to choose the name Vaatsalya (Sanskrit word for affection) for their children. These namesakes are living marks of gratitude for the level of care given by the hospitals in which they were born – hospitals managed by Vaatsalya Healthcare, a social enterprise founded by Dr. Ashwin Naik and Dr. Veerendra Hiremath.
Since 2005 Vaatsalya has been working to account for the imbalance of healthcare in underserved parts of India by bringing quality health services at affordable costs to Tier II and Tier III Indian towns. They have established 17 hospitals in rural and semi-urban areas of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, providing community members with a level of care and accessibility never before experienced.
Vaatsalya hosted the SocialStory team for a tour of the Mandya hospital, in Mandya, Karnataka. We were greeted outside the hospital by Balasubramany, the hospital administrator, who ushered us into a crowded waiting room where patients bustled in and out of the office of Dr. B.N. Prabhavati, the hospital MD. A gynecologist by specialty, Dr. Prabhavati has worked in the building since it was a nursing home, before it was taken over by Vaatsalya and transformed into a hospital.
On the right side of the room, Balasubramany opened a door to a large closet containing stacked shelves full of folders of patient records, packed tightly, but neatly ordered.
Leaving the waiting room we passed the seven-bed pre-maternity ward and the maternity ward, complete with ultrasound equipment, a labour room, and an neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) – the only NICU in Mandya other than the government hospital. “We’ve had two or three babies delivered that have been named after Vaatsalya,” noted Mr. Balasubramany.
Continuing up the staircase to the second floor, we came to the first of the in-patient rooms in the hospital. Vaatsalya Mandya has a total of 66 beds, with permission for 75. They maintain an average occupancy of around 60%, and an average length of stay of 2.7 days, according to Balasumbramany. Beyond the in-patient rooms we came to the Pediatric Ward and the Surgical Suite, which consisted of an ICU, a post-operation ward, a gynecology room, and a radiology center. “We aren’t a high tech hospital,” explained Balasubramany, “but we are affordable and appropriate. We run on a no profit, no loss model.”
On the third floor, we walked through a second inpatient wing, a general ward housing both male and female patients at a lower cost than the Special and Deluxe rooms on the second floor. At the top of the back staircase was the Yashaswini Ward, a government subsidized inpatient ward for patients that cannot afford the prices offered by the hospital.
There are about 38 hospitals in the Mandya district, including specialty centers and the district’s government hospital. According to Balasubramany, Vaatsalya is both the most affordable and the most professional of the hospitals in the area.
“The heath care here is better than at government hospitals. The hygiene and cleaning is much better as well. This is one of the best house-kept hospitals in Mandya. All of our trash is segregated into human waste and hazardous waste. The hazardous waste is disposed of by contractors, and the nurses are all trained how to separate it.”
Nursing is Vaatsalya Mandya’s top priority, with nurses receiving training up to five days a week from Vaatsalya staff. “Our Head of Nursing is working very hard to change the ‘unofficial practices’ that have been adopted and to make things more standardized,” said Balasubramany. With Vaatsalya as with many other health care providers across the developing world, a well-trained nursing staff reduces the often intense pressure that comes with a lack of qualified doctors available to a particular region.