Ernakulam’s mobile ‘Bandhu Clinic’ screens hundreds of migrant workers daily for coronavirus
Ernakulam city in Kerala is home to the country’s pioneering COVID-19-screening unit ‘Bandhu Clinic’. The mobile unit is an initiative of the National Health Mission Ernakulam and the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID). The clinic started testing for the novel coronavirus on March 28, four days after the 21-day lockdown was announced across the country.
About 500 migrant labourers have been screened as an effort to control the spread of the novel virus in Kerala. The clinic has been visiting pockets in Ernakulam which have clusters of migrant workers.
“It is an idea that was developing much before the coronavirus threat had begun. We have been interested in social work, and especially in the area of migration. We started CMID as a non-profit organisation to make healthcare accessible to migrant workers. It just so happened that, by the time we brought out the customised vehicle (with the help of Mangalore Refinery and PetroChemicals) that could work as a mobile clinic, COVID-19 had spread all over the world,” says Benoy Peter, Executive Director of CMID told The News Minute.
Bandhu Clinic (Image: The News Minute)
Having cameras, floodlights, and a solar roof, it is equipped with advanced medical equipment. The white mini-bus clinic is painted with the word Bandhu in blue. In Bangla, which is also the native language of a majority of immigrants in that area, the word means friend. The facility is run by a team of 10 health workers who are fluent in the immigrants’ native languages which includes Odia, Assamese, Hindi, Tamil, and Bangla.
“We thought this was the right time to launch Bandhu considering the spread of coronavirus,” said Dr Akhil Immanuel, Coordinator of the mission in Ernakulam district, to The Outlook.
Currently, the clinic caters to up to 500 people daily. Bandhu does not run check-ups inside the vehicle. Instead, the team sets up a clinic close to where it stops. Any workers showing symptoms will be referred to the PHC, which will monitor the patient and follow up on the cases.
The state of Kerala is estimated to have at least 30 lakh migrant workers, and National Health Mission Ernakulam and the CMID are working to protect the segment of people more vulnerable when it comes to contracting the virus.