Dr KM Ismail Hussain, who died at 76, was a beloved doctor who had been providing affordable healthcare for hundreds of families.

The doctor who charged just Rs 2 Kurnool bids farewell to COVID-19 victim Dr Ismail
Coronavirus Coronavirus Wednesday, April 22, 2020 - 18:15

Dr KM Ismail Hussain had stopped going to work at his hospital in Kurnool a few weeks ago, because of the COVID-19 situation. “He had always been so accessible and popular, that patients who were used to going to him started queueing up outside his house. He would never refuse to see a patient for any reason. So after a week, out of compulsion, he went back to work at the hospital,” his friend, Shafath Ahmed Khan, tells TNM.

On April 14, Dr Ismail breathed his last. The next day, his test results revealed that he had died from COVID-19. Authorities said that while he hadn’t come in contact with any known COVID-19 patients, he could have been infected through anyone, as he had been working in a COVID-19 red-zone.  

Dr Ismail turned 76 a few months ago, on December 5. But no one who knew him well is surprised that he had continued to see his patients. The doctor was renowned and beloved by many, with patients coming in not just from Kurnool, but from nearby districts of neighbouring states, like Gadwal in Telangana and Raichur in Karnataka. His empathy and kindness towards patients, especially those who couldn’t afford expensive healthcare, had made him widely popular. 

“He never cared about money, never saw how much the patients paid. After consulting him, people would give what they could,” says Abdul Rawoof, an Imam who has been associated with Dr Ismail’s family for nearly 45 years. 

“Earlier, people would often pay him just two rupees. Even now, during his last days at work, people would leave Rs 10 or 20, or whatever they could afford. Even if someone couldn’t pay, he wouldn’t bother,” says Abdul. Through the ‘80s and ‘90s, he is said to have been called the 2-rupee doctor, as many people thought that was his official fee for consultation. 

“There would be a cardboard box in which patients would drop money and take back change on their own. They would drop Rs 10 and take Rs 5, or put in Rs 50 and take back Rs 30. It was completely up to them,” recalls Kalkura Chandrashekhar, a Kurnool-based historian and political observer who was a close friend of Dr Ismail. 

Shafath, who is an advocate based in Hyderabad, says that Dr Ismail’s popularity went much beyond the Muslim community of Kurnool. “He also served many Hindu families, including the Jain and Marwari communities in the town. I myself would often go to him all the way from Hyderabad if I had any health issues,” he says. 

For hundreds of people, he was a trusted family doctor who always put patients first. “These days, where many commercial, private hospitals fleece money from patients, he would only prescribe tests and medicine when necessary. Even then, if a patient couldn’t pay the full price for tests and treatment, they could pay what they could afford and walk out,” says Abdul.

Starting from 7 pm, Dr Ismail would continue seeing patients until the last one of them, sometimes staying at the hospital until 1 or 2 am. “Earlier when I was working elsewhere, I would sometimes stay at his home when I visited Kurnool. One night, a man came to his house at around 2 am, complaining of a stomach ache. The doctor took a look at him and gave his advice and medicine. The man simply thanked him and left. He didn’t feel obliged to pay a fee, and no one asked him,” says Abdul, adding that even during Ramzan, Dr Ismail would be available at all times. 

After completing his MBBS and MD from Kurnool Medical College (KMC), Dr Ismail was a faculty member and Superintendent at the teaching hospital, before retiring voluntarily nearly 25 years ago and opening his own nursing home, the KM Hospital, in One Town area. 

On his last day at work, Dr Ismail had returned home late at night as usual. On waking up the next day, he felt breathless, and was admitted to the hospital. He passed away within a couple of days at the Kurnool Government General Hospital. 

With his COVID-19 tests showing positive the next day, on April 15, KM Hospital has since been sealed. Scores of hospital staff and recently-consulted patients were shifted to quarantine centres. Six members of his family, including his wife and son, have tested positive for COVID-19, and are under quarantine. He is survived by his wife, three daughters and a son. 

His final rites were carried out as per recommended guidelines with only five persons, including his son, being present at the funeral. 

“It’s unfortunate that we lost him this way. Otherwise, half of Kurnool would have attended his memorial service,” Abdul says.

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