Telemedicine efforts by women VLEs have been cropping up across the country with the goal of bringing specialty care to more underserved communities. In Kalathupudhur village, Coimbatore district, CSC Telemedicine has emerged as a critical technology to bring medical care to migrant labourers while attempting to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 among patients, families, and clinicians. Woman VLE Mrs. Vijaylakshmi has completed more than 600 Tele – consultations in last one month.
The health of labourers is an essential prerequisite for household income, productivity and economic development. Therefore, restoring and maintaining working capacity is an important function of the health services.
The area in Kalathupudhur village is majorly lacking in healthcare infrastructure. Villagers have to travel to Public Health Centres in neighbouring villages or to the district hospital when they have more serious ailments. Public transport is not so efficient and private vehicles are hired, often at very high costs. CSC in Kalathupudhur is bridging the gap between villagers, physicians and health systems, enabling everyone through telemedicine service. The patients come in contact with Digital Doctor Vijayalakshmi. The VLE informs them about the telemedicine service provided at her CSC. The people who are suffering from other medical ailments during this time can receive care from home, without entering medical facilities, minimizing their risk of contracting the virus.
Healthcare services for MNREGA workers
The VLE is figuring out how to encourage MNREGA workers to receive treatment in the comfort of their homes. She is also adopting public health campaigns, and online education programs in the remote village Kalathupudhur to drive telemedicine adoption and ensure that the MNREGA workers can receive healthcare services at their doorsteps.
CSC Telemedicine offers the possibility of increasing the supply of doctors and helps overcome geographic restrictions, and hence the efficiency of healthcare systems can be maximised by utilizing the potential of the quarantined doctors for virtual care.
The VLE said, “With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine has gained momentum. There is an overnight increase in demand, acceptance among doctors, paramedics, and consumers.”
Healthcare professionals who are in the frontline response to the COVID-19 pandemic are at the highest risk of infection. Hence, adopting telemedicine can help minimise this risk by reducing the number of personal interactions.
VLE Vijayalakshmi is creating awareness among migrant labourers how to maintain health at workplace. She says, “Health risks at the workplace, such as heat, noise, dust, hazardous chemicals, unsafe machines and psychological stress, cause occupational diseases and can aggravate other health problems. Conditions of employment, occupation and the position in the workplace hierarchy also affect health. People working under stress or with precarious employment conditions are likely to smoke more, exercise less and have an unhealthy diet.”
“Chronic respiratory diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, noise-induced hearing loss and skin problems are the most common occupational diseases. Yet no programmes are in place to address these issues” adds VLE Vijayalakshmi.
“One of the beauties of CSC telemedicine is that we can use it to balance the supply and demand. We can virtually treat our citizens even on the remotest corners and, at the same time, surveil and treat the patients at their home,” VLE suggests.
Health coverage of workers
A recent study by ILO says that work-related health problems result in an economic loss of 9% of GDP for India. About 70% of workers do not have any insurance to compensate them in case of occupational diseases and injuries. With the ongoing unemployment crisis during Covid, more and more people seek labour in the informal sector without any insurance cover and no occupational health services. Many such workers often also work in hazardous conditions and suffer work-related diseases, injuries and disabilities. In village Kalathupudhur, when the breadwinner falls sick the entire family suffers as there is no social protection.
Universal health coverage through Vijayalakshmi CSC combines access to services needed to achieve good health (health promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, including those that address health determinants) with the financial protection that prevents ill health leading to poverty.
Apart from Tele-medicine and Insurance, the VLE offers services on PMGDISHA, Life Insurance Premium collection, and Tele-law. Under PMGDISHA, VLE has trained 300 villagers in Kalathupudhur Gram Panchayat. Vijayalakshmi started CSC in March, 2014 in the remote location of TamilNadu. Within a short span of time with her proactive efforts, she ensured smooth operation of her CSC. She says: “While running CSC operations, the thing I enjoy the most is helping different groups of people who visit CSC for their service requirement. It is heart-warming to see their satisfaction after getting the services from CSC at reasonable cost and minimal time at their doorstep.”