Barak Valley is a sparsely populated region in the southern part of the state of Assam. Due to its remote location, it has always seen a dearth of various kinds of basic facilities which are essential for day to day life. Even the medical provisions had proven to be scanty for such a small population until a major step was taken by its residents in 1996, and ‘The Cachar Cancer Hospital Society’ came into existence. Furthermore, it was Dr. Ravi Kannan who emerged as a true leader when his persistent and tireless efforts along with those of his team made it possible to give a long-needed facelift to this precious institution.
This remarkable journey saw its inception when there were numerous cases of cancer being reported from time to time, with the use of tobacco among the citizens as possibly the culpable factor. Since it is a remote area with the nearest healthcare facilities available in towns like Guwahati that took almost a day to reach, most of the people were deprived or discouraged to pursue any treatment, given their financial situation as well.
Though the locals responded to this problem by setting up the hospital, it had a lot of issues related to the qualification of employees, the financial feasibility and the availability of proper infrastructure. Since most of the educated people migrated to bigger towns in hope of better payscale, the hospital was supposedly left in vain until 2007 when Dr. Ravi Kannan took charge.
When it comes to the idea of reformation, he absolutely outdid himself when he changed the whole atmosphere of the institution for which he gave up his earlier lifestyle.
Prior to this, Dr. Kannan was heading the department of Surgical Oncology at the Adyar Cancer Institute in Chennai. He says, “When I got the offer to come and work in Assam, my wife was hesitant. But after coaxing her, we came and spent some time here. I worked at the hospital and interacted with the patients. Meanwhile, my wife and daughter mingled with the members of the community. All of us realized that there was much work to be done here and this is where we should be.”
During his tenure as the head of the hospital, they employed 230 staff members, including physicians and part-time doctors as opposed to only 23 employees prior to his appointment, with hospital beds increasing the accommodation from 25 to 100.
Apart from this, the hospital team started home visits for the people who couldn’t afford proper treatment. As most of the locals were daily wage earners with an average monthly income of INR 3000, they weren’t charged for the visits.
Later, the hospital also started satellite clinics which helped in connecting with the patients residing in the farthest areas of the region.
With better treatment and free food, many patients stayed back in the hospital for longer periods than anticipated. Even the staff at the outpatient department helped people to get treatment on subsidized rates after assessing their financial situation.
A close colleague of Dr. Kannan quoted: “It is his selfless service and vision that have transformed this unknown cancer hospital into a comprehensive cancer centre that is providing free and heavily subsidized treatment to thousands of poor cancer patients every year,”.
Today, the hospital is flourishing and treating patients even from neighboring districts, states, as well as migrants from Bangladesh. It conducts various drives for awareness about cancer and the types. The hospital is now also a research centre by the name of The Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (CCHRC). Not only India, but many developing and underdeveloped countries need such initiatives as well as visionaries like Dr. Ravi Kannan. It is due to the efforts of people like him that make social innovation a reality.
Co-Author: Ankita Saxena