He is not less than a celebrity in Janathanagar, Mysuru. He is identified as ‘Hathrupayi Doctru’ than Dr. Ananth P. Bhat, an Ayurveda doctor. Everyone in the area treats him as a family member so much so that even a vegetable vendor or a coconut vendor refuses to take money for the items purchased by this doctor. Most of the times, he pleads with them to accept the money but he has been unsuccessful in making payment as ‘love’ has superseded over ‘business connection.’ For the area residents, ‘Namma Doctru’ has been a ‘friend’, ‘philosopher’ and ‘Apthamitra.’ An unassuming personality hailing from Kadur in Chikmagalur district and now residing at Bank Colony, 45-year-old Dr. Ananth Bhat shared his experiences with Star of Mysore in a free-wheeling chat. Excerpts…
By Shyam Sundar Vattam
Star of Mysore (SOM): When did you come to Mysuru? And Why?
Dr. Ananth Bhat: I completed Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) from SDM College of Ayurveda, Udupi, in 2000. Then I worked for a brief stint at a Private Ayurveda Centre when I shifted to Mysuru to look after my ailing mother. My brother too works here in Mysuru. In 2001, I opened a small Ayurveda Clinic called ‘Padmanabha Clinic’ on Sahukar Chennaiah Road in Janathanagar with Rs. 10 as consultation fee. I had no option but to start practicing to support my family.
SOM: Is it true that your father was also an Ayurveda doctor?
Dr. Bhat: My father Dr. Ramanath Bhat was a noted doctor in Kadur town. He was known as a common man’s doctor as he was charging just Rs. 2 as consultation fee. Many a times, the patients themselves were taking money from my father to go back to their villages. I have seen my dad giving money to poor patients to buy medicines. He was my first guru who prompted me to take up Ayurveda course. His advice to me: ‘Never demand money from patients; Don’t prescribe costly medicines or medical tests unnecessarily; Accept whatever they give and serve them with a smile.’
My father died in 1997 but I still follow his principles, ideology and advice. My dad is my source of inspiration. His photo finds a place in my consultation room along with that of Lord Dhanvantri.
SOM: Any special reason for charging Rs. 10 per patient?
Dr. Bhat: When I landed in Mysuru, I did not have anything on me. I had to mobilise money to start the clinic and to buy medical equipment. At the same time I did not want to charge exorbitant consultation fee. After much thinking, I decided to charge Rs.10 as consultation fee. The location of my clinic was a semi-urban area and residents were not rich. A majority of them were unable to afford treatment in Private Hospitals. Now after 20 years, I have hiked the consultation fee to Rs. 30 but it is not mandatory. Some people just give Rs. 10 and promise to pay during the next visit. Others pay Rs. 20 but I do not keep an account of such people.
Like my father, I too have given money to a number of patients to buy medicines or to go back to their villages. I also have some affluent patients from CFTRI, AIISH and other reputed institutions who pay Rs. 100 as consultation fee and don’t insist on the change. Instead they ask me to use that money on treatment of poor patients.
SOM: How did you help people during COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr. Bhat: Everything had come to a standstill during the first and the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. Patients with comorbidities were facing problems due to closure of small clinics. No doctor was ready to check blood pressure or test the blood sugar level of diabetic patients. Some people had no faith in Primary Health Centres (PHCs). At that time (lockdown period), I opened the clinic for sometime mainly to help people with comorbidities. More than treatment, I was counselling people to ward off their fear of Coronavirus. Unfortunately, there are not many General Physicians or Family Physicians in city as every medico now wants to specialise in any one field. As a result, people are missing the concept of family doctors with whom they had long association. I helped those patients as much as possible to boost their morale during lockdown.
SOM: Do you practice Allopathy?
Dr. Bhat: I follow Allopathy only in emergency. I do not prescribe antibiotics nor give injection, nor administer IV fluid but strictly stick to Ayurveda. Sometimes I feel bad about the restriction imposed on Ayurveda doctors from practicing Allopathy. In fact, both the branches of medicine are aimed at treating patients; then why this curtailment? If a patient comes in a serious condition, I examine him and refer him to Private Hospital for immediate treatment.
SOM: What is the timing of your clinic? How many patients do you see daily?
Dr. Bhat: Before starting my clinic, I studied Bioinformatics, a two-year course from SJCE-STEP. As I was attending two-hour classes in the morning, I opened my clinic in the afternoon which I continue even now. But there is no fixed time for closing down. Before downing the shutters, I come out to check if any patients are waiting. My clinic opens at 12 noon and closes at 6 pm. Again it opens at 8.30 pm and closes at 11.30 pm. Sometimes, the closing time has passed midnight. In the whole area, only my clinic and an adjacent medical shop will be opened till midnight. I do not have token system and I manage the clinic alone without the help of a nursing staff. On an average, around 80 to 120 patients come to my clinic daily. I also clean the wounds of patients and do the dressing.
The purpose of opening my clinic during this unusual hours was to make myself available for needy patients as doctors will not be available during that hour.
SOM: How do people of this area look after you?
Dr. Bhat: Sometimes, I face lot of ‘problems’. If I buy a tender coconut, the vendor will not take money from me. If I buy vegetables, the seller will not accept money. Sometimes, I have to stuff the currency notes into their pockets and run back to my clinic. If they don’t receive money, I make sure to return it to them in some other form.
The medicine samples given by medical representatives are distributed to poor patients free of cost. I do free checking of blood pressure and sugar level testing. I may not be rich as some of my professional friends but I am blessed with love and affection of people which cannot be measured in terms of money. I still use the Hero Honda gearless two-wheeler bought 15 years ago.
SOM: Which are the memorable incidents that you would like to cherish?
Dr. Bhat: Recently, a person suffered cardiac arrest and was to undergo surgery next day at Jayadeva Hospital. Doctors informed me to arrange three bottles of A + blood immediately. A software engineer, who is my patient, was requested to arrange for three donors. He sought two hours time. After that, the techie went to the Hospital with 13 blood donors. Even the doctors at Jayadeva were astonished to see 13 donors at just one request.
In another incident, a boy had to go for renal transplant (kidney transplant) but his mother, a donor, gave up her hopes to arrange money. When I came to know about it, I helped to mobilise Rs. 12 lakh through crowd-funding. Now, the boy is leading a normal life.
There are some philanthropists who are ready to contribute for such causes. I use this ‘little’ influence to help patients in emergency. I have also convinced many persons to do organ donation of brain dead patients. I have had ‘friendly fights’ with Hospitals to reduce the bills of poor patients. Interestingly, the hospital managements have obliged with a smile!
SOM: What about your family?
Dr. Bhat: My wife Namratha is an Ayurveda doctor but not practicing in order to look after my two children. While my elder son Srikanth Bhat studies in 9th standard, the younger son Navneeth Bhat is in 4th standard. Both of them study in Sri Sharada Public School, Rajarajeshwari Nagar.