A Cry for Help in Rural India
In June 2023, The Times of India reported a harrowing tale of Munni Devi, a pregnant resident of Dhongri village in Jharkhand’s Hazaribag district. As her labor pains began, a nightmarish ordeal unfolded. The deteriorating road connectivity in her area meant that no ambulance could reach Munni’s home in time. With no other options, her husband, Surendra Kishku, and a few family members embarked on a 7 km journey to Fufundih village, where an ambulance awaited them.
The Plight of Rural Healthcare
Another report in April 2023 by AP News shed light on the shortcomings of India’s medical infrastructure, exemplified by the story of 19-year-old Poonam Gond, who battles sickle cell disease. The report highlighted the staggering statistic of “one doctor for every 16,000 people in the state.” This dire situation left countless individuals like Gond without proper medical attention, revealing the domino effect of understaffed and under-resourced rural hospitals.
A Beacon of Hope: Mission ICU Emerges
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mission ICU was born from the vision of Dr. Ashwin Naik, Maanoj Shah, and Dr. Edmond Fernandes. These three friends embarked on a mission to transform India’s rural healthcare landscape. Their journey is not just about change—it’s about saving lives.
The Birth of Mission ICU
Mission ICU’s inception was not a mere accident but a deliberate response to a dire need. Maanoj, with a track record of social impact projects, joined forces with Dr. Ashwin, the founder of the Vaatsalya chain of hospitals. Together, they chronicled stories of pandemic heroes from rural areas in a short film called ‘Corona Champions.’ These real-life stories resonated with people and won their hearts.During the second wave of COVID-19, the path of Maanoj and Dr. Edmond converged. Dr. Edmond, a public health expert, was already working on projects to improve rural healthcare in Mangaluru. The result of their collaboration is now known as Mission ICU—a project that has equipped 20 hospitals across India with over 200 ICU bed kits.
A Lifeline for Rural Healthcare
Rural India has long endured a crumbling healthcare system, but the pandemic tested its resilience. The trio behind Mission ICU recognized that strengthening critical care infrastructure in rural hospitals was vital. This infrastructure would not only combat COVID-19 but also address healthcare emergencies beyond the pandemic.The ICU kits provided by Mission ICU comprise 10 beds, oximeters, BiPAP and CPAP machines, ventilators, and other essential equipment. These kits have already made a significant impact in Karnataka and Maharashtra, reducing the need for patients to travel long distances for critical care.
Saving Precious Time and Lives
Dr. Nilkant Bhosikar, a surgeon at Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Memorial District Hospital in Nanded, Maharashtra, attests to the positive impact of Mission ICU. He notes that having access to critical care within the district hospital saves patients’ precious time and lives.A study titled ‘Bharat Health Index (BHI) 2023’ revealed that only 25 percent of rural and semi-rural Indians have access to modern healthcare locally. Ninety percent of respondents had to travel to different locations for specialized treatment, and five percent reported losing loved ones due to delayed medical attention.
Changing Lives, One Hospital at a Time
Mission ICU’s approach is meticulous. They carefully select hospitals that genuinely require their assistance. Once a hospital expresses interest, Mission ICU conducts due diligence, assessing factors like infrastructure, doctor availability, and intended kit usage.Once the groundwork is complete, the team procures the equipment, trains hospital staff in its use, and remains on-site until the launch is successful. The comprehensive kit ensures that rural hospitals are well-equipped to provide critical care.Mission ICU has already expanded its reach to 20 hospitals across states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, Kashmir, Manipur, Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh. Their ultimate goal is ambitious yet essential: “create a healthcare infrastructure where no patient should travel for more than 30 minutes to access an ICU.”