For five years now, Vijaya Naik, a senior citizen based in Kasargod has been going to a medical camp every week and getting her medicines for diabetes and blood pressure, for free. The camp, conducted by three doctors in Kasargod, has been held every Wednesday since 2006, providing free consultation and medicines for everyone who attended it.
“In my memory, he has never cancelled these weekly camps except the very few times he couldn’t avoid it. Once it was for taking me for my college admission, and another time, it was when he suffered a heart attack,” says Dr Sathya Prakash, Keshava Bhat’s son, based in Delhi.
In a recent tweet, he wrote: "DrKeshava Bhat, a physician in Kasaragod, India, has been treating hundreds of patients free of cost each week, for over 3 decades nonstop; close to a million free consults by now. Lives in a rented home, owns not even a motorcycle."
Dr Keshava Bhat at a medical camp
His father is above 70 years of age now, and neither old age nor the heart attack had disrupted the weekly camps meant for the poor. But then the outbreak of COVID-19 forced the doctor to put the decades-old practice to a halt since April.
“He has not held the camps for a few months. But before that, every time I or anyone in my family got unwell, we’d go for the doctor’s medical camps and get consulted for free, and also be offered free medicine. He had a clinic in the beach road and on seeing me there, he told me to attend the camp if I am unwell,” says Narasimham, an auto rickshaw driver.
On nights that someone in the family got unwell, Narasimham would go to the doctor’s house. Consultations at his home are however not free. “That’s my income, and it is from that money that I buy the medicines to give away for free during the medical camps,” Dr Keshava Bhat says.
There have been really busy days at the camp – once Dr Keshava Bhat treated over 300 patients on a single day. “In recent years it’s come down to 50 or 60 patients a day,” says Dr Sathyanath.
The camps are meant for the needy. However they do not turn away anyone who comes seeking consultation.
“My mother has been going to the camp for six to seven years now for her Asthma treatment. It's a very good service that all three doctors provide,” says Jyothi, a resident of Kasargod.