Assam: GNRC’s Swasthya Mitras receive aid from USAID

Nava J Thakuria

Guwahati: GNRC hospitals, a chain of multi-specialty healthcare institutions in northeast India has received a financial aid of US $1.2 million from the innovative SAMRIDH healthcare blended finance facility, supported by USAID (US agency for international development, which is the Washington’s premier international development agency).

With this partnership, GNRC, which is the first super specialty healthcare centre in the region (now operates four hospitals with a combined capacity of over 650 beds), is expected to strengthen preparedness for not only the current Covis-19 pandemic but also for future health emergencies by increasing the reach of quality healthcare services offered under Indian Union government’s flagship health assurance program Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY and Atal Amrit Abhiyan scheme.

Mentionable is that USAID, IPE Global, stakeholders from the Indian government, academia, and the private sector developed the SAMRIDH initiative in 2020 to combine public and philanthropic funds with commercial capital to create and rapidly scale market-based health solutions that can improve access to affordable and quality healthcare services for India’s vulnerable section in the society. GNRC’s Swasthya Mitra Program, in collaboration with SAMRIDH, ensures the beneficiaries to have access to 35-40% of hospital beds in need and also spreading of awareness amongst the rural population on importance of using face-masks, maintaining social distancing, practicing hand hygiene, understanding the benefits of corona-vaccination and finally educating communities on Covid-19 appropriate behaviours.

GNRC Swasthya Mitra is a pool of community health workers who constantly work for preventive, promotive and curative care for India’s rural and urban poor population. Most of these Swasthya Mitras are women selected from their communities, who relentlessly help the low-income population in Assam in obtaining access to quality and affordable healthcare. GNRC Swasthya Mitras are trained to identify any patients with corona-symptoms and collaborate with the public health authority to facilitate testing, tracking, isolation, and treatment of patients.

SAMRIDH’s timely support to GNRC has enabled the hospital group to mount an effective response to tackle the third wave of Covis-19. Till date, GNRC has dedicated 320 beds to help corona-patients, including 150 ICU beds across its four units in Dispur (2 campuses), Six Mile and North Guwahati locality. The aid also enabled GNRC to convert its Good Health unit in Dispur to a fully functional Covis-19 hospital, equipped with ventilators and necessary oxygen support, along with other technical equipment for proper management of corona-cases. Trained and experienced doctors and other skilled support staff are manning these facilities for best possible care to the people.

SAMRIDH leverages philanthropic capital, and public sector resources to offset barriers for commercial investments in small & medium health enterprises to invest in and scale healthcare solutions. With this approach, SAMRIDH drives greater resources towards market-based health solutions that can improve access to affordable and quality healthcare services for India’s most vulnerable. SAMRIDH works in technical collaboration with premier institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi), Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, principal scientific advisor to the Union government in New Delhi, National Health Authority, Axis Bank, IndusInd Bank, Rockefeller Foundation along with leading corporates, international donors, financial institutions and industry associations.

“We are pleased to support GNRC in expanding its community engagement program to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations. Through this collaboration, we aim to catalyse partnerships for greater investments towards GNRC’s initiatives focused on improving awareness and access of health services. We envision our joint efforts to play a significant role in bolstering Government of India’s large scale healthcare programs including Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY and Atal Amrit Abhiyan scheme,” said Himanshu Sikka, project director of SAMRIDH healthcare blended finance facility.

Expressing his acknowledgement on receiving the support from SAMRIDH, Dr Nomal Chandra Borah, founder of GNRC affordable health mission and GNRC group of hospitals, “The GNRC family is enthralled and deeply grateful and whole heartedly acknowledges the support of USAID and this SAMRIDH initiative to assist us in our collaborative efforts. This partnership endorses our relentless efforts to make quality healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone in society, irrespective of their social and economic status, especially the most vulnerable populations.”

One of the prominent neurologists in India, Dr Borah also added, “We plan to fast-track our existing Swasthya Mitra operations to 10 districts of western and middle Assam covering 4000 villages and 6 million people with the help of SAMRIDH’s support.” This support will demonstrate that poor populations can also be served and included in organized healthcare channels through commercial models. The initial support from SAMRIDH is expected to be followed by private sector commercial financing. Setuka Partners, a boutique advisory firm that works with responsible enterprises in emerging and frontier markets and investors to forge enduring partnerships involving the movement of catalytic capital (debt, equity, grants) has been advising GNRC to put together this blended finance package.

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