In a world where affordable healthcare is a distant dream to many, one 67-year-old doctor in Chennai has been serving patients quietly as a little consultation fee of Re 2 since 1973.
Living up to his Hippocratic oath, this 67-year-old medic, Thiruvengadam Veeraraghavan dedicated his life to make affordable medical attention accessible to the most underprivileged sections in Vyasarpadi situated in North Chennai since the last 40 years.
It is difficult to imagine the struggle this man went through when despite having been born and brought up in Vysarpadi, he had to leave the neighbourhood after the 2015 floods washed away all he had. But he continues his service from his hospital that still operates from the same area from 1973 till date.
Every day the senior doctor looks at patients at a clinic in Erukancherry from 8 pm to 10 pm. From 10 pm to midnight or even later, he continues to attend to more patients near Ashok Pillar in Vyasarpadi.
His training at the Madras Medical College also equipped him to dress the wounds of leprosy patients, who most medics hesitate to attend in the absence of enough resources and precaution.
Fondly referred to a the Two-Rupee Doctor, who completed his MBBS from Stanley Medical College, he started off his career accepting only Rs 2 residents of Vyasarpadi, which he later increased to Rs 5 under immense pressure from his own patients.
The word of his selfless service spread like a proverbial wildfire and many doctors in the neighbourhood got together and demanded that the man at least charge Rs 100 for consultation.
But Thiruvengadam was quick to respond to this demand with a smart technique of his own. He stopped asking his patients for fees completely. He decided just to take whatever they were able to afford or shell out as per their understanding or merely accept eatables, snacks or food in exchange. Most of the times, he accepts nothing at all!
Thiruvengadam spoke to the Times of India, sharing the reason behind his service saying, “I studied without any expenses, thanks to the policies of former chief minister K Kamaraj. It made me resolve not to charge patients.”
While most of his batchmates and contemporaries either worked in government or private hospitals to only settle abroad with their families, his vision is a lot different.
He dreams of constructing a hospital for the slum dwellers of Vyasarpadi, and serve them until death with his family including his wife, Saraswathi, a retired Railway official and his two children T Preethi & T Deepak who trained for medicine in Mauritius.
The only steady source of income for this man is his position as an Associate Fellow in Industrial Health (AFIH), a corporate hospital, to screen job aspirants.