The death of a patient under his care and the responsibility of sharing the heartbreaking news with the relatives are by far the hardest things for Dr Ganesh Rakh. But just as hard is the task of sharing the news of a girl childs birth with an expectant family,says Dr Rakh. He can never get used to the crestfallen faces,the surging anger,frustration and even grief he encounters.
So about a year-and-a-half ago Dr Rakh,who owns Medicare Hospital in Hadapsar,made up his mind that no baby girl born in his institute will ever be uncelebrated. Since then,he charges no fees when a girl is born no matter how complicated the case is and no matter how many days the mother and infant have to be admitted in the hospital. The staff also distributes sweets and takes extra efforts to make the mother feel special. From January 2012 when he began cancelling the bills till now,Dr Rakhs team has delivered more than174 girls,of which at least 32 have been Caesarean.
To him there is nothing very extraordinary about what he is trying to do; the situation demands it,he feels. When pregnant women and their families come to see me in the OPD,they are always curious about whether the child will be a boy or a girl. Outside the labour room too,relatives are hardly concerned about the condition of the pregnant woman. They only want to know the childs gender. If it turns out to be a boy,there is a wave of jubilation. Sweets are distributed and wishes pour in. But if it is a girl,there is an uneasy quiet that settles, says the 38-year-old doctor. He shares that there have been instances when the new mother wails and beats her chest thinking about what her family would do to her for delivering a girl,and in-laws fight at the billing counter over who should pay.
Once we had a woman admitted in our hospital who was left to herself because she had a daughter. When she went in for labour,there were many relatives around but after news came that a girl was born,no one could be found. It took us about five days to locate her family, says Dr Rakh of an instance that particularly stung him.
He shares that before deciding to make services free for birth of girl child he had discussed it with his family and staff. They were apprehensive. My wife was worried about how I will sustain the hospital and pay salaries. The team also had similar concerns. They were okay to the point that we distribute sweets. But with some time,they were all convinced about it themselves, he says,adding that now paediatricians Dr Anil Chavan and Dr Santosh Shinde also dont take fees when a girl is born.
Dr Rakhs father has been an unwavering support for his endeavour. He was a labourer in Solapur district and worked very hard to bring me up to this stature. He always wanted me to do something for other people too. So he told me,if you fall short of money because of this,I will go back to being a labourer and earn for you but dont let anything stop you, says Dr Rakh,who himself has a daughter.
His efforts have also inspired others to value the girl child. Success is when people change their outlook because of what we are doing. I have been told of some local leaders announcing cash rewards and doctors from other hospitals also slashing their fees for the sake of girls. We also counsel parents and have seen some positive responses. Hopefully,with time we as a society will change, he says.