This Visakhapatnam-based doctor is providing free healthcare
For the residents of Seethammapeta, Dr Narasinga Rao is a messiah. In an area that does not offer decent primary healthcare, Narasinga has been running a clinic for the past three years, where he offers medical services for free. His patients are mostly low-wage and daily wage labourers. Narasinga was born in one of the bylanes of Seethammapeta, not too far from his clinic. In 2016, he opened the ‘US Lotus Family Healthcare Centre’ .
“Just like how a lotus blooms even in muddy water, I want this clinic to bloom in this urban slum,” says Narasinga. “The US in the name stands for Urban Slums though many people have mistaken it for the United States!” Narasinga provides basic healthcare free of cost.
His clinic is difficult to locate for the first timers to Seethammapeta. Cramped houses, small shops and open drains mark the area. But ask anyone and they will know where Narasinga’s clinic is.
It is in a really narrow alley. When Narasinga voiced the idea of opening a clinic here, several eyebrows shot up, but that did not deter him as he was committed to provide the people in Seethampeta with quality healthcare.
“There are hardly any primary health centres in this area. People have to go to the nearby hospitals which are expensive considering the fees they charge even for consultation,” he says. Issues like personal hygiene, unclean surroundings and unhygienic street food are some of the major factors leading to diseases in the area. “The area is plagued by water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, malaria and dengue. Diseases like chicken pox and viral fever are also common among the residents,” he says.
Narasinga who currently works as an assistant research medical officer at GITAM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research opens his clinic at 6 pm every evening. In a day he sees over 15 to 20 patients. “For ailments that cannot be treated at my clinic, I refer the patients to GITAM Medical College, where the treatment is also free,” he says.
Having lived in that area Narasinga says he knows first hand what it is like not to have access to basic medical care, hygienic surroundings and clean water and food. There was a time he wanted to start an NGO for tribal welfare in Araku and Paderu, “ But I realised that running an NGO was no mean feat; so I started with this clinic instead.”
But he did get a chance to work in Paderu when he volunteered at a mobile medical unit in the tribal areas. For nine months, his day began at 4 am when he would take a bus to Paderu and then go along with the medical unit van to various tribal hamlets. Along with his team of nurses and lab technicians, he visited the shandies where he treated the people for skin allergies, wounds, diabetes and blood pressure related issues. “In the tribal areas, logistics is a major issue as people still do not have access to basic infrastructure like roads. This makes it difficult for the ambulance to reach the people in emergencies. However, things are now changing as the government is making an effort to improve the connectivity,” he adds.
Narasinga spent his childhood at Bheemunipatnam along with his maternal uncle and studied at a government school. “I always wanted to be a historian or a professor of social science but it was my schoolmates who prompted me to pursue science after I topped the school in grade 10,” he says.
After school he moved to Visakhapatnam to study Bachelors of Science at Dr V S Krishna Government College. In his second year there, he secured a seat at the Andhra Medical College. After finishing his medical degree, Narasinga joined Vizag Steel Plant as a Junior Medical officer in 1985 and retired as assistant general manager (medical) in 2015.
Narasinga at 65 years of age hopes that his son who is studying medicine in Ukraine will take over the reins of his clinic.