Hundreds in Odisha town gather to say goodbye to doctor who made health centre work
When Dr Kishore Chandra Das was posted at a dilapidated community health centre in Tentulikhunti eight years ago, the townsfolk seemed wary of him. They had seen many doctors come and go over the ages, and nobody believed he would be any different.
But then, a lot can change with time.
Over 500 people, both young and old, came out on the streets to bid Dr Das a tearful farewell when he finally packed his bags last Sunday. He had decided to leave the town to pursue a post-graduate degree in orthopaedics at a private medical college-cum-hospital in Bhubaneswar.
“The entire town seemed to be crying,” said Tulu Satpathy, a local resident who participated in the farewell march taken out from the health centre to the outskirts of the town in Odisha’s Nabarangpur district. “They hugged Dr Das, and asked him to return after he had completed his higher studies. So many people came to see him off that the main road of the town was completely jammed for over an hour.”
So, what warranted such an outpouring of affection for Dr Das? Ask the local residents, and they will relate a story of how the 32-year-old medical professional almost single-handedly turned their dilapidated community health centre into a modern medical facility with an operation theatre of its own in less than a decade.
A graduate of the Rajiv Gandhi University of Medical Sciences in Bengaluru, Dr Das had begun his work in Tentulikhunti at a time when over 80% of specialist positions in the medical field were lying vacant. Even now, as many as 1,400 of the 6,719 sanctioned doctor positions in the state are yet to be filled. Backward districts like Nabarangpur are usually worse off, having no specialists in the crucial ENT, radiology and anaesthesia fields.
Sources said Dr Das spruced up the health centre by setting up an air-conditioned delivery room, an operation theatre and an oxygen concentrator, among other facilities. This, coupled with the doctor’s extended working hours, earned him the goodwill of the public. “People would come here from far-off places, spending as much as ₹300-400 on travel. I felt bad turning them away just because he had arrived late,” said Dr Das.
In 2014, the nearby Jharigumma village witnessed a diarrhoea outbreak. Dr Das put together a medical team to treat those affected by the ailment, and goaded government officials to stop sewage from seeping into the local well. A few months later, he got all the residents of an inaccessible village vaccinated after a measles outbreak.
“Dr Das was always at the beck and call of over 70,000 people on our block,” said Tentulikhunti block development officer Anakar Thakur.
“Dr Das did a splendid job here. Even the day before he was supposed to leave, he planted over 500 saplings on the hospital campus. He is a very popular figure in our region,” said Nabarangpur chief district medical officer Saroj Nayak.
Odisha health secretary Dr Pramod Kumar Meherda also had a word of praise for the good doctor. “We are very proud of him. Doctors like him are our role models,” he said.
Dr Das described the farewell as a very “emotional” affair. “I will surely return to Tentulikhunti if I get the chance. Since childhood, I was told that doctors are like God to their patients. The people here treated me like one,” he said.