Ekam USA has been started with a vision to support Ekam India and thereby reach out to most needy children in India with the mission “To provide holistic( physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual) well being including preventive, promotive and tertiary care health care support to Children and mothers in India ”
Funds raised will support 3 areas of healthcare
1.Save a child (SAC)– Direct health care support – covers the cost of hospitalizations, investigations, surgeries, etc.
- When a child needs financial assistance, Ekam’s helpline is called. Ekam has developed a state-wide organizational structure, with Regional Officers (R.Os) in each district. Tamil Nadu, where Ekam started, has 32 districts, hence 32 R.Os, who manage all the regional activities. There are two neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in each district- a total of 64 NICUs in the state. On average, Ekam receives about 60-70,000 referrals in 1 year. Ekam is able to care for all these children by utilizing the already existing public health sector and using their model of bringing the community, public and private sectors together and bridging the gaps where needed.
- Over 1 million children have been served in the last 7 years.
- Ekam’s goal is improve public health care and make it available to those in need and be sustainable. Ekam, since 2009, has recruited and trained nurses to work in each of these 64 neonatal intensive care units. They are trained to identify children that need tertiary care and provide early referrals. Ekam has a medical team that triages these referrals and determines the problem and what type of treatment needed. Then the child is sent to an appropriate facility- preferably a Government/ public hospital with the necessary equipment or facilities. If these are not available in a public hospital, a child may need to be admitted to a private hospital- but only to those within Ekam’s network- that provide subsudies and give credit to Ekam so payment may be done at a later date, without delaying treatment to the child.
- Being a pediatrician and having worked in the field since 2007, Dr. Sai Lakshmi has a lot of colleagues that work throughout Chennai where children come for tertiary care. She has trustworthy friends working at credible institutions so funds are not misused.
- Since the ultimate goal of Ekam is to provide appropriate treatment at Government hospitals, they support these institutions as and when necessary, and bridge the gaps in equipment, repairs, training, human resources, etc. This is done by recruiting and training nurses for Government institutions, repairing or renting equipment when a child needs it. This provides for efficiency with minimal cost, by utilizing the already existing system, manpower and facilities at public hospitals. So they don’t have to reinvent the wheel but support and fix it to run more efficiently in the long term.
- Numerous children have been helped, many lives saved until now, by utilizing the existing public health care system and reinforcing it. For e.g., deaths in the NICU were prevented by installing an air conditioner unit in the ICU. Similarly a ventilator may be rented temporarily if a child needs it and the hospital doesn’t have it- in such cases spending this money at a public hospital helps to utilize the nurses, room, other equipment and medicines at the hospital, whereas all those costs would be significantly high if the child is admitted to a private hospital. The medical triage team does an effective job to have the best use of the funds available.
- The Government of Tamil Nadu has seen the work of Ekam and outsourced the recruitment and training of nurses throughout the state to Ekam. This improves the network and access for Ekam in all the neonatal units throughout the state.
- Having this grassroots structure makes Ekam efficient and effective. There are significant operational costs to Ekam to maintain this structure by keeping the R.Os and administrative teams, human resources teams and research teams staffed.
2. Community governance
- Bala Arogya Suraksha (BAS) project – working on the preventive and promotive areas in health care, with community participation and Prajna Knowledge, Research and Teaching Institute (PKRTI)for knowledge transfer.
- This area focuses on screening the children in slums, Government schools, orphanages, etc. through the existing public/ school screening programs or wellness checks and providing end-to-end care to children that need further treatment. For e.g., if a child is noted to have heart disease requiring surgery, as were 115 children that were identified by such programs until now, the norm was to tell the parents of the child to get surgery done. The program had no responsibility or access to provide the child with the necessary treatment. Ekam fills the gap in such cases by researching the available options of public funds or private funds that could service the child. These 115 children were successfully treated with surgery by identifying Government funding programs at public hospitals, with minimal cost to Ekam. When necessary, private hospitals were used, but at a significant discount provided to Ekam due to networking.
- Another focus of this program is to build a fool proof organizational structure that extends to the grassroots level- at the city, district, taluk, panchayat and village levels – which would facilitate effective transmission of information to everyone, such as kitchen garden, community cleanliness, etc. This makes the community and every individual in the community take responsibility for their health through their own actions, through education and awareness, rather than just accepting help offered by others. This will also improve maternal health- healthy mothers giving birth to healthy babies.Due to the work done by Ekam until now, it has been recognized by the Government and officials at all levels, with due support provided where needed.
3.Research and Development–
- Advocacy of policy recommendations to the public health system, monitors and suggestive corrective measures for ongoing programs of Ekam. This would assist in measuring the efficacy of current programs and changing the dynamics of health care as needed.