GE Healthcare, the US$17 billion healthcare business of General Electric Company and a group of its Asian American employees have adopted the Banavaram Primary Health Centre (PHC) in India’s Tamil Nadu state in an effort to provide that community with better access to affordable healthcare. Together, GE Healthcare and GE’s company-wide Asian-Pacific American Forum (APAF) are contributing US $90,000 (approximately INR 45 Lakhs) for a two-year program that will include creating a medical-technology infrastructure at the clinic and training its employees in its use. At the end of the two-year program, all equipment will be donated to the PHC. APAF is an organization of more than 4,000 GE employees who have come to the United States from countries throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands and are working to improve the quality of life in their regions, particularly developing countries. The donation supports GE’s ‘healthymagination’ initiative, the goal of which is to make quality healthcare accessible and affordable everywhere in the world, particularly in underserved markets in developing regions. ‘What GE Healthcare is doing is a reinforcement of our own objectives and we are pleased to partner with an organization which recognizes the need to step forward and help build a self sustainable approach to healthcare services,’ said Thiru V K Subburaj, Principal Health Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu Health Department. He added, ‘We hope to set an example for other states to follow. The same model could be used to develop the existing infrastructure capabilities and hence work towards the millennium development goals.’ The Government of India has committed to improving the nation’s health by improving availability and access to quality healthcare, preventive healthcare and safe drinking water, especially for poor women and children residing in rural areas.
The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was set up in 2005 to strengthen effective healthcare delivery to rural populations throughout the country especially states that have weak public health indicators and/or infrastructures. The NRHM has placed special focus on the health of women and children and the reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates. More than 23,000 Primary Health Centres (PHCs) across India form the cornerstone of accessible and affordable rural healthcare. However their resources are stretched thin making it difficult to provide quality healthcare. Private partnerships are critical in increasing healthcare access to the masses. GE Healthcare has partnered with various state governments to extend healthcare access and together they are running a number of programs in India and Bangladesh. Partners include Manipal Hospital, Bangalore for cardiac screening in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh; Grameen Health for maternal and infant care in Bangladesh and NICE Foundation in Andhra Pradhesh for maternal infant care and manpower training. ‘It is extremely important for corporations like GE Healthcare to partner with local governments in order to make a real difference in healthcare,’ said Omar Ishrak, president & CEO, GE Healthcare Systems. ‘Working with the Government of Tamil Nadu, we are confident we can reduce premature deaths, disabilities and infant and maternal mortality rates in this community.’ ‘I am honored and privileged to work with the Government of Tamil Nadu and the surrounding communities to improve the quality of life for those who need our life changing technologies the most. By uniting the talented and passionate GE APAF community with the Government of Tamil Nadu, the PHC staff, and the surrounding communities, we’re confident that we will be able to build a ‘grassroots’ model that will yield far reaching benefits for years to come,’ said Gaurav Agarwal, Leader of APAF for GE Healthcare. The Banavaram PHC originally had a capacity of only two beds, a blood bank, an ultrasound machine, an anesthesia system and an ambulance. Today it is equipped with an operating theater and 30 beds for in-patient treatment, but still relies on outdated ultrasound and anesthesia equipment. It treats nearly 300 pregnant women per month for outpatient prenatal care and postnatal care and also handles approximately 50 caesarian deliveries in a month. The nearest large hospital is 50 km away.