As a doctor, Dr Padmanabha Kamath’s engagement to help people living in rural areas and underprivileged is absolutely amazing. — Anne Marie Cardina from Belgium.
A 65-year-old woman who visited a Jan Aushadhi Kendra at Kadaba, in Dakshina Kannada collapsed all of a sudden. The pharmacist managing the centre immediately carries out ECG test and sends the report to a WhatsApp group called ‘Kayakalpa’ created by the Cardiology at Doorstep (CAD), a crusade against coronary artery disease.
Dr Padmanabha Kamath, the chief admin of the group and also Professor and Head of the Department of Cardiology, Kasturba Medical College Hospital, Mangaluru reads the report and suggests immediate medical evacuation of the woman to the nearest hospital for treatment.
Similarly, an Indian Army medical officer in a border area is helped in saving a soldier's life, thanks to this unique initiative, which immediately assists those in need of cardiac care.
For the last two years, a large network of cardiologists formed by an interventional cardiologist from Mangaluru and his brainchild CAD have been working to ensure that no patient in rural Karnataka loses their life because of lack of facilities.
Dr Kamath still remembers an incident a few years ago, when a young auto rickshaw driver in a remote village in Chikkamagaluru lost his life due to delay in diagnosis. Disturbed over the incident, Kamath started CAD in February 2018, an initiative of bringing cardio care to needy in remote areas.
What was started as a WhatsApp group with about 150 doctors to help quick diagnosis, especially in the remote rural areas where specialists are not easily accessible now has over 2000 doctors.
The group helps the doctors working in small hospitals and PHCs/clinics to connect with the nearest cardiologist and hospital to treat the patients. Till date, over 50,000 ECG reports have been shared and over 5,000 heart attacks have been diagnosed through the groups. “Every ECG posted is read immediately. If ECG is not normal, the doctor is advised to send the patient to the nearest hospital for treatment,” he says.
Having realised that ECG machines are not available in all the PHCs, small clinics and taluk hospitals, the CAD Foundation has raised money and installed over 300 ECG machines in rural pockets of 22 districts in Karnataka.
“The funding for these machines came from patients, their relatives, banks, industries and philanthropists,” says Dr Kamath.
He hopes that with the help of the Government and support from NGOs, the CAD initiative can be taken to the remaining districts in the state.
Under the Kayakalpa initiative, the CAD foundation has installed ECG machines in Jan Aushadi Kendras in remote areas of five districts with heavy footfall — DK, Udupi, Shivamogga, Uttara Kannada and Chikkamagaluru.
The CAD had set up ECG machines even at MBBS doctors’ clinics in interior rural locations, which came in handy during the pandemic.
The benefit of ECG machines was evident during the lockdown, when the patients visited the nearest PHC or a clinic in their village, rather than travelling to cities for treatment.
Citing an example, Dr Kamath says “I received a call from Raju (name changed) from Rajahmundry (in Andhra Pradesh) during lockdown in April. He was seeking help in reading the ECG of his relative at around 4.30 am. I immediately read the ECG and realised that the person had suffered a heart attack. I called Raju and asked him to take the patient to a cardiologist. By 6.30 am, the patient had reached the hospital and angioplasty was done by 7.30 am to save the patient’s life.” This is just one example where I could help a patient hundreds of kilometers away by sitting here in Mangaluru.
CAD WhatsApp groups received more than 2,000 ECG reports during the lockdown and over 250 heart attacks were diagnosed.
On how he manages the group, Dr Kamath says he has designated at least four cardiologists to manage each group even in his absence. Of the eight CAD groups, four are exclusively for Karnataka, one for Pan-India and three for armed forces called ‘CAD Jai Jawan,’ which is managed with the help of army doctors.
All the PHCs in Karkala, Udupi, Kundapura, Belthangady, Bantwal have been given ECG machines and all these are in the periphery of 45 to 50-km.
Anne Marie Cardinalle from Belgium who suffered cardiac arrest while she was in Ujire in Dakshina Kannada says, “As a doctor, Dr Padmanabha Kamath’s engagement to help rural people and underprivileged is absolutely amazing. When I developed chest pain, the local doctor didn’t know how to interpret the ECG. It was CAD WhatsApp which saved my life. I support the initiative by donating ECG machines to serve people in villages.”
Dr Vikram Prabhu of Kalasa Kaveri Charitable Hospital says, “the CAD initiative of Dr Padmanabha Kamath has made the reading of ECG reports easy by a team of cardiologists and thus help in rushing the patient to the nearest multi-speciality hospital for treatment."
In fact, several doctors treating in rural areas were trained in the basics of cardiac related issues and management protocols by Kamath.
The installation of ECG machines in PHCs has changed the health scenario when it comes to cardiac issues.
Lauding the efforts, Dhiraj Sharma, General Manager (Marketing and Sales) of Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India (BPPI), which is entrusted with Jan Aushadi Kendras says, “The initiative has been serving common man by supporting cardiac speciality by networking PHCs with ECG for the healthcare.”
When the activities of CAD were brought to the notice of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa by Bantwal MLA Rajesh Naik, he directed the officials from health and family welfare department to help the foundation in installing ECG machines in rural pockets across the state.
The CAD Foundation has also sent 1,000 life kits to those clinics and PHCs in remote areas where ECG machines have not reached. The life kit has troponin testing strips which help in early diagnosis of heart attacks. During the lockdown alone, nearly 200 kits have been distributed.
Dr Kamath has started a cardiac helpline number (97432 -87599), for guiding those in distress to the nearest hospital for treatment. “Initially, I was receiving 10 to 20 to 20 queries a day through the helpline. During the lockdown, the queries had increased to 150 to 200,” explains Dr Kamath.
He also wishes to take the initiative on a pan-India level with the help of like-minded cardiologists and the support of philanthropists.