My thoughts on the REACH Team Day

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Having planned the event with my colleagues in October 2012, I was happy Team Day finally happened on 10.01.2013. The purpose behind the event was to enable all members of the organization to come together and have a sense of being a part of a larger group.

Dr.Ramya addressed the gathering for the first time after taking charge as Executive Director on a full time basis. She energized and enthused everyone to commit themselves to the challenges of Public Health. I was impressed by the story of The Pencil…

This was followed by presentations on the work done at REACH through the different projects.

I noticed that all the Field Officers who were involved in patient care and intensive field work (PPM staff) felt great pride in sharing their achievements accompanied with big smiles spread across their faces. It was indeed an occasion for them to pat their backs and be happy.

“7 new private practitioners joined the PP network in my zone”

“13 patients referred 20 cases to me of whom I started 7 on treatment”

“66 programs done in the last year sensitizing more than 1000 people”

“11 cases were identified following a program in an area.”

“I was happy to ensure the completion of 2 patients as they were most challenging”

“716 house visits were made totally last year in the course of my monitoring’

“Providing DOTS to 39 cases totally last year”

“Initiated 99 cases on treatment”

“Food Security research study taking shape after a long process”

“95 calls on the helpline last year”

These numbers may be small, but the amount of work that each staff puts in to achieve them is indeed extraordinary.

I enjoyed the experiences this day brought me and in particular the REACH tree, which will now be put up as a reminder in the office of the work which still continues to be done in the society we live.

I and all of you in the REACH team… yes we do make a great team… let’s keep ourselves going as long as we can…

Sheela Augustine



Spotting a Volunteer

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Seen in the picture is Manikandan with his DOTS cap

As I rattled the TB facts to my audience during a TB awareness program at Koku Maedu village in Minjuir block, Thiruvalur District, I noticed a head nodding in constant agreement with all that I said. I also noticed the word DOTS in bold spelt on his cap. Unable to confine my curiosity I asked him where he got the cap from. Manikandan explained that he had attended a TB rally two years back. “Ever since this cap has been in my safe keeping. I have also seen how nurses administer the DOTS tablets in my village. If given a chance, I would like to be a DOTS provider to patients with TB” said an enthusiastic Manikandan.

“I now have another addition to my list of community support volunteers on whom I can lean back for support” Dinakar Sai

REACH Blog Team       


A Happy Coming Together

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It was a moment of triumph for me to see Surya walk into the Medavakkam REACH DOTS centre with her little bundle of joy cuddled up between her arms. Surya had happiness written across her face as she beamed with glee.  A total contrast to what she was when I first met her two weeks back.

Surya’s brother had come to the DOTS centre with a referral from the Medavakkam Government Hospital to start her on DOTS. Surya stayed at her parental home as part of the custom after delivery, usually followed to allow a woman recuperate her health after child birth before she goes back to her husband’s home. I met an extremely gloomy looking girl who seemed to be disinterested in what I had to say . When I enquired what  her grief was about, her parents  told  me that she had delivered a baby two weeks ago, after which she had severe cough. Surya was diagnosed with Tuberculosis at the Government TB Sanatorium. When they consulted their nearby family doctor, he advised her husband to take the baby away from her and stop her from nursing the baby. He said they could give back the baby to her after she started to feel better.

I immediately called her husband and requested him to meet me at the DOTS centre. He did not turn up. Meanwhile I started Surya on treatment. A week later her husband visited me, I explained to him that a mother does not spread the disease through breast milk. I also made it clear to him that his wife was a sputum negative patient, and that such patients do not spread the disease. I also told him that after two weeks of treatment a patient is safer and does not spread the disease.” Please don’t deprive your baby of her mother’s milk, a right of every child to good health” I explained. I further gave them the number of the Medical Officer from the Medavakkam Government Tuberculosis Unit, from whom they could further verify and get a second opinion on what I had said. However, understanding, what I said and clear of all his misconceptions, Surya’s husband handed over the baby to her.

After the tragic separation Surya and her little one are now back together, happy and engrossed in each other’s company.           


REACH Blog Team

From Belgium with Love

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Inspired by a book she read on Mother Theresa as a teenager Elona dreamt of coming to India ever since. She longed to do something on the lines of what Mother Theresa had done. Her passion brought her to the country three years back. She worked for two months through an NGO  with the homeless people on the ghats of the river Ganga  at Varanasi in North India. Elona is back again from the land of chocolates to India, this time in the south, in Tamil Nadu, at Chennai . She is now married and has come with her  husband,  an engineer, who has been sent to India on a project for a three year period.

Elona is deeply grateful  to her husband who has kindly permitted her to work  with the slum dwellers of S. M. Nagar. Wanting to pursue her dream again, Elona approached Philip, the Project Manager of Speed Trust, an NGO which works for the wellbeing and development of the people of S.M. Nagar. Understanding her desire to help, Philip gave Elona an opportunity to extend a touch of love and comapssion to the slum dwellers.

A qualified nurse by profession, Elona treats the people who come to Speed Trust with minor ailments. She uses her expertise to help patients with wounds by dressing them up. When the person needs more medical attention, she accompanies them to Kalyani hospital and is instrumental in getting them the required medical help.

Couple of months back, when REACH organised a TB awareness program at S. M. Ngar, two patients with Tuberculosis were identified, Elona took up the responsibility of being their DOTS provider. She houses the drug box at the Speed Trust  office where the patients come and swallow their tablets in her presence. She also gives one of the patients his injections, for whom it is part of the treatment.

“Being in India for me is an opportunity to learn a new culture and meet new people. What I am doing is very minimal in a land where a lot more has to be done. If every one can spare a little time out, a lot can be changed” Elona.

“When the patient fails to come for his days dose, Elona immediately takes his tablets and injection and walks throuth the streets of S. M. Nagar to reach the patients house not paying heed to the extremely filthy and nauseating condition around her. She does all this on an honorary basis. I am really taken aback by this young lady’s deep rooted  compassion to help people in need” Chitra

M. Chitra

REACH Blog Team

A Cured Patient Stopping TB

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Thirumal is a 42 year old patient who has just been cured from Tuberculosis after undergoing DOTS treatment through the REACH Minjuir DOTS centre. Couple of months back Thirumal was in bad shape. He could barely stand on his feet and couldn’t even go about his daily duties without assistance. Cured now and aware of the nature of the disease,Thirumal talks about the disease and its symptoms to people in his vicinity. He assists the REACH staff at the DOTS centre in creating awareness in the community by distributing pamphlets containing TB information and by mobilizing people to attend TB talks.

“I want a community free of TB” says Thirumal.

Sai Dinakar

REACH Blog Team

Doctors Stopping TB

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Dr. Raghu Nanda Kumar, at his Care & Cure clinic.

Dr. Raghu Nanda Kumar stops TB by referring TB patients from his Care and Cure clinic for DOTS treatment. He says patients in the periurban areas are unable to adhere to treatment due to the high cost of TB drugs. Free drugs supplied through the DOTS strategy is a boon for such patients and enables them to complete treatment elaborates Dr. Raghu.

‘I want more patients in periurban areas to use the DOTS program” says Dr. Raghu.

REACH Blog Team

The Role of the Field Officers is fundamental for the Success of DOTS

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Dr. SangeethaBalasubramaniam, M. D.,
Consultant Physician, Diabetes &Hypertension Specialist

A modest two room clinic with all the essentials in place is what describes Dr. Sangeetha’s practice space on a narrow lane occupied with automobile shacks at Border Thottam, Mount Road. This busy, young doc who portrays the perfect picture of a compassionate doctor, has been doing DOTS for the past four years and has put fifteen of her patients on DOTS so far.

Dr. Sangeetha, as a policy, immediately waivers her consultation fee for a patient when he or she is diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Her team at the clinic which includes two nurses; Latha and Nisha do a good job in motivating patients to get back on track when they loose to follow-up.

Her first encounter with DOTS was through REACH and feels it is an essential tool for a lower middle class area like Border Thottam where potential patients exist. “TB treatment is a long process which makes close follow up an essential. DOTS avails this kind of follow up and free drugs too. The role of the field officers is crucial in the success of DOTS. They coordinate with us and engage in all forms of needed networking to help a patient towards cure. I have shown up for two workshops arranged by REACH for private practitioners which I find very useful. To help a patient complete treatment I take up different roles in terms of being a kind friend to a strict police man” explains Dr.Sangeetha.

REACH Blog Team

Industries Stopping TB

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ABAN CARES, a shipping company, has been funding the running costs of the REACH DOTS centre at Minjur since 2011. A DOTS centre is a place where people can receive counseling and guidance services to access government health centers providing free diagnosis and treatment for TB. The DOTS centre helps patients in early detection of the disease and ensures that patients complete treatment for 6-8 months through the DOTS strategy.

ABAN CARES is stopping TB by curing patients and stopping the chain of transmission in the community.

” By helping out in small way, we want to stop TB by making TB care easily accessible to people in rural areas.” says a representative of ABAN CARES.

REACH Blog Team

DOTS Is Impressive

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Panchatshram was diagnosed with Tuberculosis at the ICF hospital in Chennai and was started on TB medication privately. Though regular with his tablets, he couldn’t continue his treatment for more than forty days because he was unable to bear the cost of the medicines. He then consulted another doctor at Minjuir, who referred him to the Minjuir DOTS centre for free treatment through the DOTS strategy. At the DOTS centre the REACH field officer put him back on treatment through DOTS.

Panchatshram’s son Ramesh, is totally amazed with the DOTS strategy and says he is happy to know that the government has tailored a patient friendly program, like DOTS for TB patients. He says the monitoring system under DOTS is a great way to ensure patients take their tablets.

Ramesh is now sure that his dad will be cured and has extended his support to arrange awareness programs on Tuberculosis. He is also willing to become a DOTS provider for patients in his vicinity.

Keep the enthusiasm going Ramesh!


REACH Blog Team