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It is afternoon, and the load on Mumbai's suburban trains on the central railway line has considerably come down, but the queue at the 'One- Rupee clinic' at the eastern platform of the Ghatkopar station refuses to shorten. This is the time when local shopkeepers and residents come to the clinic for affordable treatment. And the queue gets longer every time a train stops at the station.
The clinic- a 10 x12 room-- was started by Dr Rahul Ghule four months back. It has all the necessary medical equipment: a blood pressure machine, a glucometer, an examination bed, among others. The clinic also offers all blood and urine tests.
A brainchild of Dr Rahul Ghule, it is a part of a chain of 8 clinics at local train stations in Mumbai. The clinics also serve as emergency medical room to the railways.
The idea of setting up the clinic occurred to him in 2014, when he was working as a medical officer at J J Hospital in Mumbai and used to have a lot of free time in the evenings. Since a doctor working in public hospital could not do private practice, he decided to open a charitable clinic in Machimar nagar, a slum near Colaba.
Most patients wanted treatment for cough, cold, fever. Some were diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes. One day, an old woman came to him from a far-off locality. She had a wound on her left thumb, which was severely infected. "Had she delayed the treatment for another few days, doctors would have had to amputate her thumb. She could have even died of septic shock. But I found that she was unaware of the severity of the condition," says Ghule.
In just a month, Machimar clinic became popular with the locals and the patients strength grew from 30 to 200 in the second month. "Most patients who visited the clinic didn't have money for treatment. I learnt how unaffordable the healthcare system is in our country. I desperately wanted to expand my services to people but there was only so much I could have done alone," says the 33-year- old doctor.
When he was thinking of expanding the clinic, his parents met with a road accident. "There was no hospital on the highway. My mother, who suffered severe head injury, took long to recover," says Ghule.
This accident shook him to the core, and he decided to take his charity work to a new level. He found an opportunity—most railway station in Mumbai, he realsed, didn’t have an emergency medical room. Around 10 people die at the stations every day in accidents, and many more suffer serious injuries and disability.
He named it 'One-Rupee Clinic' as one rupee is the token fee of consultation. All diagnostic tests are offered at half the market price. As of now, there are eight such clinics and 12 more will start operations soon
The railways accepted Dr Ghule's proposal and agreed to provide him space, water and electricity. The first clinic came up at Ghatkopar station. To make the clinics self-sustainable, he set up a pathology lab and a pharmacy next to it. He named it 'One- Rupee Clinic' as one rupee is the token fee of consultation. All diagnostic tests are offered at half the market price. As of now, there are eight such clinics and 12 more will start operations soon.
The popularity of these one-stop healthcare centres is growing fast. "In the last four months, their turnover has touched two crores," says Ghule. "We conduct around 5000 tests, including a couple of MRI every day. We also earn through our pharmacy."
On two occasions, doctors at One Rupee Clinic have helped with deliveries at the platform when women passengers went into sudden labour. "We also got a few cases of cardiac arrest, in which timely intervention saved lives. Accidents occur almost every day at the stations. We can reduce mortality and disability with timely medical intervention," says Ghule.
Ghule has made the clinics self-sustainable, and there is no dearth of doctors, both young and experienced, wanting to join the unique railway station clinics. The specialist services such as opthalomology, neurology, psychiatry have also been started at few clinics. "We also have MRI and CT scan at two clinics available at almost half the market cost," says Ghule.
He now plans to launch the concept of 'Healthcare-on-EMI'. "For patients who cannot afford to pay for expensive tests and imaging, we plan to offer an EMI system at our clinics, allowing them to pay in three installments," he says.
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