Meet the Karnataka doctor who started a unique ‘grama vastavya’ for cardiologists

The 'village stay' initiative is by Cardiology At Doorstep, a foundation set up by Dr Padmanabh Kamath of Mangaluru.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Jan 13, 2023 | 2:15 PM Updated Jan 13, 2023 | 4:15 PM

Dr Kamath is a professor and Head of Cardiology at KMC Hospital in Mangaluru. (Supplied)

You may have heard of politicians and their “grama vastavya” initiative in Karnataka. Now meet this doctor who has started the medical version of this outreach programme under which cardiologists stay in remote villages across the state and help people with diagnosis and treatment of their heart conditions.

Dr Padmanabh Kamath from Mangaluru has started his new initiative, also called “grama vastavya”, through his foundation Cardiology At Doorstep (CAD).

“I am definitely not inspired by the politicians’ concept of ‘grama vastavya’. It is my inner calling and inspired by my own findings of how people in rural Karnataka are at a disadvantageous position, in terms of access to cardiology care. It is to bridge this gap in cardiac healthcare that I started this programme,” Dr Kamath, Professor and HOD, Department of Cardiology, KMC Hospital, Mangaluru, told South First.

Dr Kamath talked about how his foundation was started in 2018 to provide ECG (electrocardiography) machines.

The foundation has installed some 750 ECGs at Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and small clinics in rural areas, and Jan Aushadhi Kendras in Karnataka.

The cardiologist’s plan for grama vastavya

A team of cardiologists from mangaluru launch ‘grama vastavya’ brain child of Dr Kamat.

WhatsApp groups formed by Dr Kamath have more than 5,000 members across the country now. Meanwhile, another WhatsApp group of cardiologists from Karnataka is where the details of patients’ ECG and other reports are sent for expert opinion.

Dr Kamath has also roped in gram panchayats and anganwadis to bridge the gap through an earlier initiative called the Gram Panchayat and Anganwadi Project (GAP).

The “grama vastavya” project was started last week at Kalasa and Horanadu villages in Karnataka, and it has seen great response, says the good doctor.

How it works

A team of cardiologists from mangaluru launch 'grama vastavya' brain child of Dr Kamat.

Dr Kamath with his team of cardiologists and junior and resident doctors. (Supplied)

Explaining the process, Dr Kamath said that in many villages, the network already formed by him has ensured that several doctors in these places will maintain a list of patients who require cardiac care, diagnosis and follow-up care.

“A team of 10, including four to five cardiologists and others who are senior residents and junior resident doctors, will visit the selected villages. Here, through my WhatsApp group and the ECG supplied network group, the doctors will maintain a list of those patients who need cardiac analysis, care and follow-ups,” said Dr Kamath.

This makes it easier for the doctors to treat patients of all ages from each village.

Health and wellness centres come to help

Dr Kamath also explained that the health and wellness centres (HWC) set up by the Karnataka Health department in most of the villages have helped the CAD team reach more people.

“In most of these villages, there are HWCs that help us to a great extent. In Kalasa, where the first camp was held, we didn’t do it in a government set-up. We intend to use the HCWs in many of the villages that have been planned,” Dr Kamath explained.

A call for more cardiologists 

Dr Kamath stated that it would be great if more cardiologists from across the state joined the “grama vastavya” initiative.

A team of cardiologists from mangaluru launch 'grama vastavya' brain child of Dr Kamat.

A member of Dr Kamath’s team checking a patient. (Supplied)

He said, “It would be great if cardiologists could come forward to join hands with me. This is charity work and they can’t expect financial benefits. But the kind of satisfaction this service gives is amazing. If more doctors come forward, we can reach out to more people and help more villages.”

The stay is usually only for a day, he explained.

As everything is already planned and the number of patients are listed and ready to be checked, the time the doctors will have to spare is about 24 hours.

“I might be the changemaker but I can’t carry this forward alone. If other cardiologists join hands, we can make great changes,” Dr Kamath reiterated.

He added, “Through CAD-raised CSR funds, I have ensured supply of ECG machines to several villages. Even in the remote corners of Karnataka’s villages, I have ensured that the machines are supplied and we have even trained people to use them.”

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The plan ahead

Patients waiting

Patients waiting at the hospital to meet Dr Kamath. (Supplied)

Dr Kamath’s current focus is on villages in North Karnataka, with the additional hope of covering Chikkamagaluru, Hassan and Madikeri districts as well in the coming months.

“Next month, I will be visiting Koppa. The plan has been made and the team is ready,” he added.

When asked if they have found any increase in cardiac-related cases, post-Covid, in recently-visited Kalasa and Honnavar, he said that he did not come across any Covid-related changes as such.

Offering his opinion, he said, “Cardiac-related death and diseases are globally on the rise. It is too early to say if Covid or Covid vaccines has any role for sudden cardiac-related deaths or ailments. There is a need for research on this.”