In conversation with President BHC&RC, Dr Ahmad Ali

The Baqirya Health Care and Research Centre (BHC&RC) was awarded the prestigious Ladakh state award in the category of social reforms and empowerment. In this regard, Voice of Ladakh conducted a detailed interview with President Baqirya, Dr. Ahmed Ali to discuss the journey since its establishment in 2007. This interview covers the milestones, different health-related initiatives, and programmes that reflect on the major ailments being prevalent in district Kargil. The full interview is enumerated below.

Voice of Ladakh (VoL): As President BHC&RC, how do you feel and what do you want to say on receiving this award?

Dr. Ahmed Ali (AA): This award is not for me as an individual but for the whole Baqirya family including its members, donors, collaborators, and supporters who supported us financially, physically, and morally.

VoL: As you are associated with Baqirya since its beginning, how was the journey in all these years?

AA: Baqirya Health Care was established in 2007 by a group that includes doctors, engineers, and other professionals. It was the Late Sheikh Hussain Zakiri who provided us with this platform. Since then, Baqirya is functioning without fail.

VoL: What are the major initiatives that you took in this period?

AA: The current Baqirya building once used to be the Sadbhavana center. When this building was vacated by the Sadbhavana, the Late Sheikh Zakir dedicated it to Baqirya. Considering the few members at that time, we initiated a free OPD service every Sunday. People started joining with Baqirya and we became a Caravan. Steadily, we shaped different health programs. Now, we have more than 1100 members that consist of members from J&K, other states of India, and abroad. Steadily, Baqirya extended health services to peripheral and far-flung areas where health services were poor. They were also facing the problem with transportation facility to reach Kargil headquarter. Thus, we conducted Multi Speciality camps in areas on a priority need bases. So far, we have attended around 50,000 patients in these camps. We also provided them with free medicines and tests as we had a mobile laboratory. Then, we added free basic life support ambulances.

We established a laboratory where we had two laboratory technicians that make tests on a nominal charge. We have separated the Diagnostic Centre from the laboratory where we have an endoscopy, ECO, Ultrasonography, ECG machine, and digital X-ray machine. In these processes and procurement, Al-Iman Charitable Trust Mumbai has played a major role in financial assistance. On the recommendation of doctors, we also provided free tests to poor patients. In those days, there was no Critical Care ambulance in fact all over Ladakh. Baqirya with the help of Al-Iman Trust procured a Critical Care ambulance. This remained instrumental in shifting critical patients to hospitals in Srinagar.

In this period we also conducted awareness programs, seminars, and symposiums on lifestyle diseases that were prevalent in society. We also provided updated medical education to our doctors with the help of specialists from outside the district. Another major project is super specialty camps because neither we had a post of a super specialist in Ladakh nor we had the manpower. Thus, Baqirya conducted such camps especially cardiac camps for heart patients, and invited prominent cardiologists from J&K and other states of the country. Baqirya provided the expenses for the boarding and lodging of the specialist during their visit to Ladakh. In this process, we needed Echo and ECG machines that were procured. Baqirya is not here to establish a parallel health institution but it stands to assist the Health Department. These camps helped in the proper treatment of the patients in Kargil who could be treated with medicines without going outside the district. In these cardiac camps, we registered and treated thousands of patients.

In addition, we conducted a cardiac surgery camp in collaboration with Being Human for cardiovascular patients, especially children. We sent the patients from Kargil to Delhi who are treated free of cost in Max Hospital in Delhi. Baqirya is frequently conducting hip and knee replacement camps with the health department. We have signed an MOU with the director, Knee Division, Medanta Hospital, Dr. Adeep Vasudev. He comes here and conducts free knee and hip replacement surgery. Many patients are in waiting for this process.

Moreover, our region has a major challenge with eye problems, especially cataract patients. Our Health Department is not able to handle a huge number of such cases. We conducted free eye surgery camps with Doctor Manzoor Eye Care Centre, Srinagar. This camp is also held every year without fail. This year only we screened the patients here in Kargil and conducted the surgery in Srinagar where more than 150 patients were successfully operated. The patients were also provided free lodging and boarding at Kargil house for which I would like to thank LAHDC Kargil.

Kargil has a huge number of neuro-psychiatric patients for which we frequently conduct special neuropsychiatry camps. We also frequently bring bone-dexa scan machines and technicians from outside the district to provide free dexa tests for old aged patients in Kargil to test their bone density which is otherwise an expensive test. In addition, we have a rehabilitation Centre where we provide physical rehabilitation, audiometry, speech therapy, physiotherapy, extra for specially-abled persons below 18 years of age. This wing also conducts regular surveys in far-flung areas to identify such patients. We also collaborate with ICDS and Social Welfare Department for such camps. We have also provided a free pick-and-drop facility for specially-abled persons that was provided by VMF and Azim Premji Foundation.

We are also providing awareness under the School Health Program where Doctors of the same gender interact with children. The doctors also provide one-to-one counseling to children if needed. We have a dental health program also for children where we provide awareness and Dental kits to children to encourage dental hygiene. We have established a dental clinic also equipped with modern facilities. The OPD is free while procedures are charged nominally for the reagent medicines. We have also procured new machines in our eye clinic.

Our major project is the Hepatitis-B campaign that was started in 2008 as an awareness programme that continued till 2017. In 2017, we started taking action with the mission called “Hepatitis-B free Kargil” with the objective to screen people and to vaccinate them if not infected. If found infected, we provide them counseling and treatment.

VOL: When the hepatitis B campaign was initiated, the national data of hepatitis B infected was 4 percent while in Kargil the number was 9 percent.

AA: Absolutely, two studies were conducted in Kargil in this regard where the data shows a huge prevalence in Kargil. This was a key reason that pushed Baqirya for the mission. In ending 2022 we screened and vaccinated the whole Kargil district. For drop-outs, we have given them the time to register and get vaccinated.

VOL: What are the major challenges in this journey and how was the response from the public?

AA: With the grace of Allah and support from doctors, members, and the public we did not face many challenges. We just took the initial step and people joined to form this caravan. During the Covid, we faced various challenges that delayed the health missions.

VOL: How did Baqirya perform during the Covid pandemic?

AA: I must mention that Baqirya was the first organisation to donate the Deputy Commissioner Kargil in his Red Cross Bank to coup up the Covid pandemic. We provided RTPCR test kits to both Kargil and Leh administrations. We also provided door-to-door medicines to patients in a place where online delivery is not yet adopted. We also procured 50,000 N95 masks that were distributed in Kargil (30000) and Leh (20000) with sanitizers. We donated a ventilator to CHC Sanko and High Flow Nasal Canula to District Hospital Kargil. We also procured 28 to 30 oxygen concentrators to ease patients during Covid 19.

We also contributed to the program called Nikshay Mitra programme for tuberculosis patients. This program was aimed to provide nutritional support to TB patients. Baqirya adopted the Kargil block for this program and provided nutritional support to patients.

VOL: What are the upcoming program on your things to-do list?

AA: Recently we have initiated a program called sisters program on menstrual health and hygiene to ensure menstrual hygiene among females. Menstrual hygiene has been seen as a stigma in society that needed immediate attention. This is conducted in different blocks where females were sensitised towards hygiene. In addition, we are also providing menstrual cups which is made of silicon. This is expensive but long-lasting that is provided free of cost. The sanitary pads are not environmentally friendly. For acceptance, will take time but change is definite. We are also planning to extend the sisters program and hepatitis B program in the Leh district. Moreover, we have a Cervical Cancer Screening program which has seen prevalent in Ladakh. we are planning for this. I would like to thank once again my colleagues, doctors, donors, and members of Baqirya and the media fraternity for frequently giving space in delivering our messages to the public.


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