Gudalur Adivasi Hospital — A Beacon of Inspiration

From Bangalore, the Garden City of India, and now its bustling IT capital, I take a taxi to Gudalur. After 4 hours of highway lined with shops, restaurants and houses, we take an exit unto a small street filled with cars and horns, after only about 20 minutes we have left that behind and now have trees, brushes and bright red dirt on our sides, and the horn of our driver as he veers turns alerting oncoming traffic that we exist. After an hour he begins to ask directions, “why would a foreigner want to go to this far out?” we finally hit the Mudumalai national preserve, miles of green vegetation, ant hills that look like giant rocks on the side of the road, and monkeys that go about their way since you didn’t stop to feed them illegally. After another 45 minutes and a distant elephant bathing himself on the river, we exit the reserve. Another 30 minutes and 5 stops to ask for directions later, we enter the main street of Gudalur, shops, open markets, one beside the other. Another stop for directions and we’re told to the left on a single lane road climbing up a hill. We wind left and right, red dirt now almost touching the side view mirrors, one last fork in the road and we see the sign of the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital, and a 3 story red brick building behind it. Walking in we’re greeted Monica, one of the few non-tribal employees of the hospital, who tells Adivasi is “First People’s” in the local language and the Adivasi Hospital primarily treats the 4 tribes of area, and is owned by those tribes.

Services provided at Gudalur Hospital

The hospital was founded 25 years ago when all was pastures and banana trees, to treat the tribal people who were seen as not even worthy of having a caste, below even the untouchables. Since then the hospital has grown and is now one of the best clinical facilities in the area with everything you’d expect from a 60 bed hospital, outpatient clinics, 5 labs for different tests, 4 inpatient wards, a dental clinic, registration and billing, an emergency room, ICU, 2 operation rooms, blood bank, pharmacy and warehouse. They’ve implemented Bahmni 2 months before and I ask if we could tour around and see the hospital and how Bahmni is being used. We start with the registration desk, with 2 small PCs and 13” monitors, where patients are first greeted. Then to Billing where patients must pay the fees for their services (currently, a doctor’s visit costs around US$1). There we also see 2 PCs in fervent use. Up to the second floor for the labs, each with the reagents, microscopes and other machines necessary, and each with the same black 13” monitor on a small desk. This same pattern in the outpatient clinic, where Dr. NK, one of the hospital founders, explains how it’s difficult for him to type and keep up patients, but that the younger staff have no problems. As we continue with the operating rooms, blood bank, pharmacy, all with the same black monitor and it begins to dawn on me that Gudalur might be the first paperless hospital that I know of treating low resource patients, and they’ve only had Bahmni for 2 months!

In only 2 months this hospital in rural India has managed to advance what for most takes years and they are well on their way to being completely digital, an amazing feat.

I ask Kannan, their do it all hardware/sysadmin/support guy, and he confirms that all orders including medications, consumables, labs, and x-rays are all online and that the patient doesn’t need to carry anything from one station to the next. There are still a few places where the hospital still uses paper and they would like to digitize them, for example, doctors still write their notes on paper and hand them to a staff to enter them, but in only 2 months this hospital in rural India has managed to advance what for most takes years and they are well on their way to being completely digital, an amazing feat.

Kanna, Gudalur’s technical wiz, in front of the Blood Bank, which is also using Bahmni

Additionally, this implementation was performed by one of our implementation partners, NuChange, one of a growing list of companies who are taking Bahmni worldwide.

Gudalur Hospital shows how an organization can empower an entire community, provide high quality clinical care and use information systems to improve even more. This is a great example of how Bahmni can play a role in improving care.

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