Walk into any Government hospital in Hyderabad and you are most likely to spot young men dressed in blue t-shirts and women in blue scarves, greeting patients with a smile and trying to help them and their relatives access healthcare facilities.
Be it helping patients with registration in the Outpatient Department (OPD), providing bedside care to patients who have no relatives or even making transport arrangements to drop patients to the nearest bus terminal or a railway station, you can rely on them during emergencies.
The men and women, who are called ‘Prajaarogya Mitras’, are part of over 150 healthcare workers deployed by the Helping Hand Foundation (HHF) at 24 Government hospitals in Hyderabad and Rangareddy with the sole aim of helping patients in times of need.
Started in 2015 at MNJ Cancer Hospital as a helpdesk, the initiative of HHF has now become an integral part of all Government hospitals in Hyderabad. Not just top tertiary hospitals like Gandhi Hospital and Osmania General Hospital (OGH), the HHF has deployed healthcare workers even in Area Hospitals and District Hospitals under the Telangana Vaidya Vidhan Parishad (TVVP) in Hyderabad and Rangareddy.
“Our biggest achievement has been that patient trust factor in public healthcare has gradually started to improve. At OGH, patients are happy because they don’t have to pay bribe for a wheelchair because our volunteers are there to receive them,” says HHF founder Mujtaba Hasan Askari.
Recently, the Foundation also roped in women healthcare workers to provide the much-needed guidance to pregnant women at maternity hospitals in Sultan Bazaar and Petlaburj. Apart from that, the Foundation also manages nearly 10 dedicated ambulances in Hyderabad to transport patients between different hospitals.
The healthcare workers of HHF have proper identification cards, with uniforms and some of them are even trained in extending bedside care to patients (who do not have anybody else to take care of them) like helping them take bath, feeding them properly and even giving them a haircut, an important aspect in personal hygiene.
So how does the Foundation managed to raise funds?
“It’s very difficult to raise funds but we have managed to convince donors that their investment goes a long way in helping poor patients at government hospitals. We have convinced banks to take up their CSR activities only in public healthcare institutions. While the State-run machinery is there to help patients, it is quite unfair for us to expect them to take care of the patient load on their own. We wanted to fill this gap,” says Hasan Askari.