Guwahati: The Brahmaputra River , and its fertile valley, serve as the lifeline of Assam. But thousands of people are affected annually by floods, and many villages are cut off. To help reach medical facilities and better healthcare options to these people, the state government has come up with the novel idea of boat clinics.
The Brahmaputra River makes its way 760 kms through Assam creating a vast network of islands. It is estimated that 2.5 million people live on over 2,500 islands. The floating clinics are their lifeline.
The boat clinics have life saving medicines, a laboratory and other medical equipments besides a doctor and nurses.
"We are getting a very good response as people residing here need medical facilities and care. We always witness huge crowd whenever we set up a camp in any village. We conduct routine checkups for pregnant women, immunization of children and provide medical care for all other patients," said Dr. Barman.
The boat clinics are an initiative of the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (CNES) and are supported by Unicef and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
There are 15 such boat clinics in Assam that cover 13 districts.
The medical staff also holds interactive sessions with villagers, especially women and children, to create awareness about sanitation, population control and the need for vaccination.
"They give us free medicines and prescriptions. They conduct awareness camps about sanitation and nutrition," a local resident Mohammad said.
"If we go to a hospital then we have to travel far, but since the doctors come here we don't have to do that. This saves us travelling costs, other expenses and the cost of medicines. It is a very good initiative, but we urge the government to set up a hospital here," said another resident Kusum.
The boat clinics, which started in 2005, play a vital role in reaching out to people who lack basic healthcare facilities.
The government is working to strengthen healthcare facilities in the state by promoting public private partnership (PPP) and plans to initiate more such initiatives to reach out to the people.