Recognized as a Mini Health Centre by the Tamil Nadu State Government the Auroville Health Centre (AVHC) provides medical care and laboratory facilities, backed up by a pharmacy, to all: residents of Auroville, guests, as well as the surrounding local population.
It further maintains 6 village centres as community health outreach facilities. They are open daily for rendering basic, continuous medical care, particularly for the underprivileged of the local population.
A team of 11 local women trained as village health workers serve supportively these villages, giving first aid, home advice, basic health education and doing daily dressings in the afternoons.
Apart from the daily doctor’s consultation, the Auroville Health Centre offers presently the following facilities:
· Daytime 3-bed patient facility
· Medical laboratory - providing all routine test and biochemistry throughout the week. Additionally on Saturdays special test (e.g. for thyroid, other hormones as well as any other test)
· X-ray facility for limbs
· Minor operation theatre - equipped for purposes of sutures, dressings, ear syringing, etc.
· Pharmacy - stocks allopathic, ayurvedic and homeopathic medication.
· Several preventive health programs for village women and children.
Starting off in 1969
The Auroville Health Centre traces its humble beginnings to 1969, when the Mother allocated Rs. 5,000 to start a dispensary in a thatched hut in the area now known as Douceur. The community of Aspiration was not yet built. There were hardly any Aurovilians living in the area at that time, and the dispensary was created mainly to serve the villagers from nearby Kuilapalayam. The dispensary expanded rapidly. By the end of 1973 a permanent structure, designed by Piero, had been built with donations from a Parsi lady (Ms. Wadia), the Government of India and Auroville.
Sub-centres in the Bio-region
Gradually the Health Centre extended its activities to other villages.
Today, there are six sub-centres where daily wound dressing is done and where once a week a doctor from the Health Centre gives consultations. Medicines are provided without charge and lab tests are charged minimally. Antenatal checkups are completely free.
Team of doctors and nurses
Many people have helped in developing the Health Centre, but four doctors deserve special mention: the late Dr. Satyabratha B. Sen, Dr. Kamla Tewari, Dr. Assumpta and Dr. Lucas. While Dr. Sen originally started the Centre, the latter three, over the years, not only took charge of the running of the Centre, but also raised funds to expand its activities and extend the building. They also built the Health Centre staff quarters, and gradually a community health program took shape. At a later stage, in 1999, Albert joined the team taking charge of administration, nursing care and the village programme - the latter till 2010. Albert withdrew from the Health Centre mid 2013 due a severe accident. He left his body in December 2013.
Community health programmes in the surrounding villages
Apart from basic health care services, the Health Centre team is overseeing the following activities, or has been instrumental in starting them off:
- Training village women as Village Health Workers and supervising their work;
- Regular clinics with laboratory facility and medication in 7 villages;
- Monthly child growth monitoring for under-fives, including nutritional advice;
- Working with the schools on health education and carrying out health checks on Auroville and village children via the schools;
- Maintaining the daytime 3 -bed patient facility;
- Classes for adolescent girls on general and reproductive health;
- Classes for women on hygiene and proper diet.
The day-to-day charge is in the hands of Dr Uma at this time.
At present the Health Centre treats 13,000 to 15,000 patients a year, 10% of whom are Aurovilians. It has become a major task to raise the funds to run it. With the generous help of donors ,the Health Centre is operating today with a full-fledged laboratory, an X-ray machine and a small operating theatre. Qualified doctors are on duty till 5.30 pm.
After 5.30 pm, emergency cases usually need to be taken to one of the bigger medical institutes nearby or else to Government hospitals in Pondicherry.
Our aim for the future is being able to offer 24-hour medical help which is not possible as long as only one Aurovilian doctor works for the Health Centre.
For further improvement of the facilities of the Auroville Health Centre , funds as well as qualified and dedicated Auroville staff are required.
Adapted from articles in the Auroville Handbook
and Auroville Today