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A lifeline for the ailing

R Gopalakrishnan is now a full-time social worker determined to help patients in financial and emotional distress, reports Nazim Khan.

india Updated: Nov 05, 2007 03:54 IST
Nazim Khan

He had a harrowing time when his brother-in-law was hospitalised with brain tumour, first arranging for a bed and then searching for his blood type (A negative, which is rare).

His brother-in-law survived but the three-month ordeal left R Gopalakrishnan determined to help patients in financial and emotional distress. The year was 1982 and he was a 23-year-old then, working for a textile firm and struggling to make ends meet.

Twenty-five years on, Gopalakrishnan gets between 20 and 25 calls for help every week and is the person people turn to when they are looking for medical finance, hospital beds and blood.

The commerce graduate has gone from leaving his job at the textile firm to become an insurance agent so that he can devote more time to social service. He is now a full-time social worker.

“He goes out of his way to help those who approach him, regardless of whether he knows them or not. I have found him to be a selfless person,” said Dr Amitabh Ghosh, a consulting psychiatrist who volunteers at Anand Rehabilitation Centre, a residential nursing home for people with mental disorder that Gopalakrishnan set up in Nallasopara six years ago.

As a result of his interactions with doctors and hospitals, the 48-year-old bachelor has enough contacts in both government and private hospitals to help arrange for beds when he gets distress calls. He also helps arrange for prompt medical action or surgery if the need arises. “If the patient is in financial distress, I call donors and NGOs to sponsor the medical bill, or convince the hospital to waive a part of or at times the entire bill,” said the Goregaon resident. If the patient needs help to arrange for blood, he taps his network of 2,000 volunteers.

All this at no cost, for the poor. “There’s no charge for people from the city. I charge five per cent of the hospital bill if the patient is not from Mumbai,” Gopalakrishnan said, “but I waive it if the patient has money problems”. As in the case of a patient from Jalgaon, whom he helped recently. “The man had oral cancer and required immediate surgery. I called my friend Dr Satish Rao from SL Raheja Hospital in Mahim, and he agreed to operate,” he said. Gopalakrishnan then went about the arduous task of arranging money for the surgery — Rs 1.5 lakh. “I spoke to the hospital’s medical social worker and convinced them to waive the cost of surgery.”

The money he charges from the patients helps cover the costs of managing the various organisations he runs, like Prompt Medical Care, which he established in 1982. The centre helps patients find hospital beds, doctors — volunteers even pick up patients coming to the city for medical treatment.