Dr Radha S Murthy (62) Co-founder, Nightingales Medical Trust
In 1996, when Dr Radha S Murthy was working with a hospital in Sadashivnagar as a general practitioner, she saw how difficult it was for elderly patients to get medical help. That got her thinking about offering healthcare to senior citizens at their doorstep. When the hospital she was working in wasn't keen on pursuing it, she got together with her colleague Prem Kumar Raja, to start Nightingales Home Health Services.
With a "minimal budget" of around Rs 10 lakh, they bought an ambulance, some medical equipment, and got two nurses and one driver on board and launched out of Dr Murthy's house in Sadashivnagar. "We would cater mainly to those within eight kilometers of Sadashivanagar," she recalls.
But the biggest task was convincing people. "Although people wanted the convenience of medical services at home, they were sceptical about the concept," she says. While Dr Murthy looked after the medical aspects, Raja took care of the administration. To spread the word, the two would go around the locality distributing leaflets. Within six months, emergency calls started pouring in.
As they started going to patients' houses, Dr Murthy realised that along with health issues, the elderly were in need of emotional and financial support. That's how the Nightingales Medical Trust and day care centre Sandhya Kiran was started. "Actually we prefer calling it an enrichment centre. That's because we organise activities with their peer groups which keep the elderly busy," she says. They also conduct vocational classes where the attendees make paper bags that are sold to places such as HOPCOMS, and organise an annual 60+ job mela.
Last year, they organised street plays from Kolar to Bangalore to create awareness about dementia. "We just gave them an outline of a script. But we were surprised to find them putting up the performance with such ease," she says. Today, Nightingales Home Health Services has two branches — Kasturinagar and RT Nagar — across the city, offering its at-home medical services to elderly patients within eight km of each branch.
So Dr Murthy's biggest satisfaction is when people come up to her saying they want to settle down in a particular area just to be located close to Nightingales. Still, she feels there's much more that has to be done for the elderly. "The government has to wake up to the needs of the elderly. Or at least, the younger generation needs to be sensitised to their needs," she says. With Nightingales around, that will hopefully happen soon.