What is “Unit of Hope”?
Children or persons with single or multiple disabilities have to visit individual departments such as Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Ophthalmology, ENT, Psychiatry, Plastic Surgery, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation etc. in a tertiary level health care institution for management of their condition. till 2004, this was also the practice in St. Johns Medical College and Hospital.
In the year 2004, a mother and her child with disability who visited SJMCH in the morning and was referred from another department to orthopedics had to wait till late afternoon before the child could be seen by Professor Saji Joseph (class of ’74). It was then felt by Dr Saji Joseph and Dr Ramesh, Professors in Orthopedics that the caregivers of children with disability should not face the difficulty of taking them to different departments / facilities to get appropriate intervention.
Thus arose, the need for a single facility dedicated to the comprehensive medical management of children with disability and more importantly providing the required follow up and rehabilitation at the level of the community and family so that the future of children following medical intervention is also taken care of.
Hence the concept of ‘Unit of Hope’, a multidisciplinary approach for children with disability came into being and it was inaugurated on 18th August 2004 by Rev. Dr. Thomas Kalam, Director, St. John’s National Academy of
HealthSciences and Mr. U.B Mudgol, Director of Welfare of Disabled, Govt. of Karnataka. The main aim of the unit was to have a comprehensive multi disciplinary well equipped and exclusive unit for the management of physically and mentally challenged children, with an outreach arm for community based rehabilitation.
Dr Saji Jospeh examing the back of a child with an Orthopedic disablity
This multi disciplinary unit consists of a team of volunteers who have dedicated their time to this cause and includes doctors and occupational therapist/ physiotherapist from departments of Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Ophthalmology, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, ENT, Psychiatry and Community Health. The team is also supported by other paramedical faculty, orthotist/ prosthetist, social work department.
The unit currently functions under the able guidance of Dr Swarna Rekha, (Class of ’74) Professor of Pediatrics who is also the convener of Unit of Hope with support from Dr. Saji Joseph (’74), Dr Ramesh, Dr Binu Thomas (‘87) from Orthopedics, Dr Maria Lewin and Dr Anand P from Pediatrics, Dr Kurien, Dr Rajalakshmi from PMR, Dr Ramesh and Ms Nagapoorinima audiologist from ENT, Dr Sunitha N (‘82) from Ophthalmology, Dr Ashok M, and Dr Vijaya Raman from Psychiatry and Psychology Dr Dominic Misquith (class of ‘75) and Dr. Deepthi Shanbag from Community Health,
Why does Unit of Hope like to work with children with disability?
Disability is a major Public Health problem in India, with an estimated prevalence rate of around 8-10%. Disabled persons especially children with disability are a very vulnerable group due to the impairment preventing him or her from achieving his or her true potential. The disabled are a low priority group in the health practice in India Also it is very heartening to note that many cases of childhood disability are amenable to some form of prevention or early intervention thereby improving their quality of life. Unfortunately, most cases of childhood disability progress to a “handicap” because of inaccessibility to treatment or the expenses involved or even worse the- lack of awareness regarding any intervention.
Educating A child with disablity Physical therapy
How does the Unit of Hope work?
The Unit identifies children with disability by conducting surveys at community locations in a selected geographic area done by the Department of Community Health. The Unit of Hope team also conducts disability camps in places like Palamneer in Andhra Pradesh, Tumkur, Gudulur and also in the Andaman and Nicobar island etc. on a regular basis.
The rehabilitation needs of these children are assessed by the multidisciplinary team of the Unit of Hope. The unit then discusses to put forth a comprehensive individual rehabilitation plan for the beneficiary.
The intervention will be offered at the lowest cost possible, and will be subsidized for those who cannot pay through funds raised through grants and donations. No child is ever turned away for lack of money.
Following intervention, the child is followed up in the community for the other needs of the child like education, social needs thereby making this child a integral member of the society
The other initiatives undertaken by the Unit is early screening for hearing impairment and retinopathy of prematurity along with regular follow-up of high risk infants
What are the unique features of Unit of Hope?
- It is multidisciplinary effort and team work involving many departments giving a holistic approach to a child with disability
- The unit has dedicated it’s services to mainly the under privileged children keeping up with the mission of the institution of “Reaching the unreached”
- The team members have maintained a very cordial relationship amongst themselves and the members have not changed since 2004 which show their commitment to the cause of the disabled.
- The team has been very dedicated and committed to the cause of disability that they have a devoted time solely for this purpose.
- It can be proudly stated that it is one of the pioneering initiatives by an academic medical institution in India in the field of rehabilitation of children with disability
- In this era of commercialization here is a leading example of doctors working voluntarily in a dedicated time solely for this cause without expecting any financial incentives
What are the achievements of Unit of Hope?
- Services given to the children with disability
- There are 1500 children with disability registered
- The Unit which started to function on the afternoons every Wednesday initially is now functioning morning and afternoons of Wednesdays and also on Tuesday afternoons every week
- The number of consultations which started with a mere 196 in a year in 2004 has gone up to a 1316 in 2009 (an average of 25 to 30 per day)
- A special clinic only for children with cerebral palsy once a month
- The services have not only extended to the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and but also the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- Some of the beneficiaries have come all the way from the far off states like W.Bengal, Orissa, etc
- On an average at least 60-70 reconstructive surgeries are done in a year through unit of Hope with numerous assistive devices being given along with appropriate therapy.
- A total of 8594 neonates were screened for hearing impairment from 2002 and a total of 39 neonates have benefited from this screening.
- Unit of Hope has definitely brought “Hope and Joy” in the life of these children. (e.g. Indra’s story)
- Recognition of uniqueness of Unit of Hope
- 1 Benefactors have volunteered support towards the program by visiting the clinic and appreciating the good work done.
- Support by cbm Germany for equipments, training of personnel and patient care
- Due to increasing numbers in the OPD, and lack of space cbm Germany has offered Rs 80 Lakhs for the construction of a new building exclusively for children with disability. “St John’s Institute for Children with special needs” a project of 2.5 crores has begun construction this year which will be dedicated exclusively for children with disability. This will be again a pioneering step as it is the first of its kind which will have facilities for all types of disabilities. Donations towards this construction will be most welcome to complete this project
- The Unit of Hope was visited by delegates from cbm Switzerland on a first priority basis to promote their work for fund raising. It was a fruitful visit since cbm, Switzerland has willingly agreed to support a child sponsorship programme. Hence giving the impetus to the Unit of Hope and making it’s work internationally acclaimed.
- Unit of Hope approach of rehabilitating children with disability as a multidisciplinary approach has been recognized as “role model” for rehabilitation and promoted by cbm in several medical colleges.
What does the Unit of Hope “hope” to achieve in the future?
1 A independent disabled friendly hospital providing services on all days of the week exclusively for children with disability
2 Education and training of more health care personnel in various aspects of care of children with disability by establish multiple training programs to all levels of health care personnel thereby making St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences a centre for excellence in rehabilitation
3 Initiating and conducting research to prevent disability, to decrease severity of disability and provide affordable effective therapy/ rehabilitation.
4 The vision of Unit of Hope is at the end of five years there is a fully established Regional centre for children with special needs
Please Note: DONATIONS ARE MOST WELCOME FOR THE CAUSE OF THESE DISABLED CHILDREN.
IT CAN BE MADE IN THE NAME OF “CBCI – UNIT OF HOPE CONSTRUCTION”Contact for further details:
- Dr Dominic Misquith, Professor , Department of Community Health,
- St John’s Medical college, Bangalore -560034