Die-hard fans of ancient system of medicine can take note. An age-old method of using needles to alleviate pain is alive and expanding in slums of Mumbai. The treatment also believed to cure several minor ailments comes at an affordable cost in Dharavi and Bandra (east). A visit to the clinic would cost Rs 20.
Ujwala Patil, a social worker, brought acupuncture to the doorstep of the city’s poor through her organisation ‘Barefoot.slums’, which runs two clinics.
“Acupuncture is cost-effective. There are no sophisticated machines or expensive drugs. It is a medical science administered using needles. That is what makes it affordable for people who do not have adequate access to healthcare facilities. It relieves physical pain,” said Patil, a social worker.
“People who live in slums mostly earn their bread doing manual labour, and their body is their most important asset. Acupuncture relieves body pain to a large extent. We have patients suffering from paralysis, women with gynecological troubles, patients suffering from acidity and so on coming to us,” Patil said.
She runs two five-bed clinics at Dharavi and Bandra where 10 therapists provide treatment.
The doctors have acupuncture degrees and acupuncture specialists from across the world, through Patil’s network, train Barefoot.slums doctors to augment their skills before they practice.
Patil started thinking of establishing these clinics in 2007 after she volunteered at a medical camp in Bandra with Belgium-based acupuncturist Walter Fischer.
The first clinic that came up in 2008 in Bandra was rudimentary, with space barely for two beds and no running water. In the first year, treatment gained popularity in slums and the clinic saw more than 300 patients. Patil and her team felt a need to move to a larger space.
In 2009, they started a bigger clinic with five beds, water facility and a toilet, in a larger rented space. In 2011, they started a similar clinic in Dharavi.
The oganisation does not claim acupuncure is a cure-all. The doctors have been instructed to direct patients with complex medical conditions to allopathic doctors and hospitals.
“We should know our limits. Every science has its limitations, so if there are patients with blood pressure problems or say cardiac ailments, we direct them to allopathic doctors,” said Patil.