Ayurvedic Medical Center & India’s Healthcare System

Hand
Ayurvedic Medical Center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

 

Photojournalist Flora Hastings is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.   To see Flora’s body of work click on any image.

 

Patient 1 Ayurvedic Medical center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

Patient 
Ayurvedic Medical Center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

 

“2/3 hours” is LL’s average sleep each night – the founder and head doctor at Kattakkada Thaluk private hospital. He’s rubbing MegaGel on a burn. An auto-rickshaw driver had just bought the cream from a nearby pharmacy. We’re sitting in a small room for dressings and injections. Patients are sedated. They wander around in their boxers or sit staring at walls in vacant rooms. Lizards and ants filter across the walls.

On average 60% of an individual’s average wage is spent to gain entry into a hospital like Kattakkada. But a public health care system exists in India? “The quality is very poor, it exists but most people will go to private”, Shabi explains, a local from Mumbai. Although healthcare is free for Indians with the lowest income, the quality of doctors and lack of resources in rural areas lead many to private alternatives. With government spending on public healthcare having fallen over the last few years, the Catastrophic Health Expenditure (CHE) has risen. The CHE is triggered if an individual’s health-costs threaten a family’s ability to live above the poverty line.

 

Pensive Ayurvedic Medical center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

Pensive
Ayurvedic Medical Center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

 

A universal health-care system is being formulated under Narendra Modi, which would provide financial coverage across India. However, following the country’s budgetary strains, its implementation was halted last year. Many query how these plans will materialize following fiscal shortages, partly caused by Modi’s increasing liberalization of the economy and the country’s high-rate of tax evasion.

 

Hand 2 Ayurvedic Medical center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

Hand 
Ayurvedic Medical Center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

 

Polystyrene plates are pushed into the red soil. Remnants of mung beans and rice speak of the long journey many undertook to arrive on time at Sivananda’s health camp, a 10 minute drive from Kattakkada hospital. “It’s quiet today” one of the volunteers says. We’re part of a crowd of 800 people. Usually there are over 1,000.

 

Queue 2 Ayurvedic Medical center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

Queue 
Ayurvedic Medical Center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

 

The men in the shade sit and talk, the woman are in the queue fighting to get their medicine following examinations by an Ayurvedic doctor. And then they switch. The climate in the queue oscillates between laughter and urgency. When the man in charge of ushering in the patients to the medical room permits 10 more people, the white prescriptions become flags waved to assert the individual’s right to entry.

 

Queue 3 The movement of privatization in Kerala may not be as fast as the new high speed train being built in the Prime Minister’s state, but the current budget’s fiscal deficit has not set Modi’s health insurance scheme in motion for 2016. (Location: Ayurvedic Medical center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala)

Queue 
The movement of privatization in Kerala may not be as fast as the new high speed train being built in the Prime Minister’s state, but the current budget’s fiscal deficit has not set Modi’s health insurance scheme in motion for 2016.
Ayurvedic Medical Center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

 

These white sheets of paper will have prescriptions tailored to whether you have a vatta, pisha or katta dosha – the three types of body constitution in the Ayurvedic worldview. The term Ayurveda stems from the classical language Sanskrit, and the medicine promotes a herbal based form of healthcare.

 

Queue 1 Locals wave their prescriptions as they stand in queue to receive their medicine. With only two doctors providing consultation for up to 1,000 patients, the waiting time will stretch for hours. (Location: Ayurvedic Medical center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala)

Queue 
Locals wave their prescriptions as they stand in queue to receive their medicine. With only two doctors providing consultation for up to 1,000 patients, the waiting time will stretch for hours.
Ayurvedic Medical Center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

 

The health camp is funded through Sivananda Ashram, built in the 70’s by Swami Vishnu Devananda. The building is an old Ayurvedic hospital, the conditions for re-purposing the disused space was to set up a health-care charity. The ashram receives 1000’s of tourists a year, while its fees for Indian guests are half-price. The ashram donates all of its profits to the health camp, while also employing over 100 locals to work on its grounds. With India’s ever-growing tourism industry, this is a way to benefit the local community through the influx of foreign money, as opposed to exploiting the lack of local job choices through low wages.

 

Aisha Aisha regularly volunteers at the Ayurvedic Medical center, working full time at the Sivananda Ashram that funds the charity. She wears Jasmine in her hair to celebrate Janmasthami, Lord Krishna’s birthday. Sivananda Ashram, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

Aisha
Aisha regularly volunteers at the Ayurvedic Medical center, working full time at the Sivananda Ashram that funds the charity. She wears Jasmine in her hair to celebrate Janmasthami, Lord Krishna’s birthday.
Sivananda Ashram, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

 

This form of tourism is embedded in Kerala’s co-operative ethos. Driving through the Communist leaning country’s urban centers, walking in the forests, DYFI (Democratic Youth Federation of India) will be painted on tree-trunks, homes, shop-fronts. Crumbled hammer and sickle signs endure through the Monsoon rains. Che’s eyes watch passerby’s from lamp-posts.

 

Patient 2 Ayurvedic Medical center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

Patient 
Ayurvedic Medical Center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

 

The state is known for its population’s high levels of political engagement. In the 1970s, ‘The Kerala Model’ became international regarded for instigating reforms that provided a high-level quality of life for all demographics. Land reforms and public welfare were given precedent over a high GDP, with many distributions of wealth programs lessening structural inequality. The state’s local community care unit, fuelled through government funds and micro-donations, puts the quality of palliative care far above any other state in India. Palliative care, a therapeutic way to treat sufferers of serious illnesses, is fuelled through Kerala’s co-operative foundations. With only 3% of Indian’s population, the Southern state provides two-thirds of this mode of care in India.

 

Friends Ayurvedic Medical center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

Friends
Ayurvedic Medical center, Neyyar Dam, Kerala

 

However, following a deficit in government spending in the mid-80’s, Kerala’s health care system has become progressively privatized, leading many to hope for revitalization schemes from the government echoing those of the 70s. The growing privatization of India’s economy, coupled with the delays in Modi’s welfare system, highlight the importance of community run health camps such as Sivananda Medical Camp, driven through volunteers and re-directing the potentially harmful influx of foreign money to beneficial ends.

 

See also:

Travel

By Flora Hastings

 


Back to HOME PAGE

%d bloggers like this: