The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Help a call away in medical distress

Seventy-six-year-old T.S.V. Nath, a diabetic and an asthma patient, tripped and fell while negotiating the stairs. It was two in the morning and his wife was at her wit’s end, as there was no one else at home. Then, she dialled Aastha.

“They reached him within minutes and handled everything. They saved my husband’s life,” she now says.

Whether an ambulance in the middle of the night, a series of pathological tests to be conducted, a baby to be brought into the world or any special clinical diagnosis, Aastha is helping Calcuttans in medical distress in more ways than one.

Founded by cardiologist Bedabrata Bhattacharya and his wife Shubhasree, Aastha is a “unique network of motivated, specialised and experienced” doctors, paramedics, pathological laboratories, donor services, ambulance services and nursing homes.

“We started in a semi-organised manner in 1997, primarily to reach out to the elderly whose children live and work outside town. Very often, even fetching a diagnostic report from the neighbourhood lab is an arduous chore for ailing senior citizens. Our aim was to extend a helping hand through a bouquet of emergency services, but our network, then, was essentially limited to south Calcutta,” recalls Bhattacharya.

Aastha, now spread across town, has close to 1,000 members and provides expertise in cardiology, orthopaedics, general surgery, gynaecology, paediatrics, anaesthesia, ENT and dermatology through doctors on standby and senior consultants.

“We now cover the whole of Calcutta, from Dum Dum to Garia, all along the Bypass and up to Behala in the south-west, having divided the city into five zones for ease of logistics,” adds S.C. Mukerjee, CEO of the group. Mukerjee, a school friend of Bhattacharya, has joined the cause to carry Aastha’s work forward in a more organised manner.

One step in that direction is the launching of Advantage, Privilege and Power membership cards. The Advantage cardholder enjoys up to 20 per cent savings on hospitalisation expenses in some of the leading health centres of the city, and a 10 to 30 per cent savings on pathological tests at more than 50 labs.

“It’s an instrument of saving, particularly useful to those who need constant medication or frequent hospitalisation, expecting mothers, senior citizens and those who pay for their medical insurance from their own pockets,” explains Mukerjee.

“And with joint families all but a page from the past and many young professionals choosing to settle abroad, Aastha often fulfils the role of an absent family member,” he adds.

The Privilege card entitles a member to stay connected 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, use dedicated medical helplines, emergency care and other medical aid. The Power card combines the benefits of Advantage and Privilege, assuring savings as well as 24-hour medical help.

The complete medical records of Privilege and Power card-holders are also maintained and updated online.

“This enables the member or his family to access the data online. NRIs with parents living in Calcutta will find this especially useful,” observes Bhattacharya. The databank, of course, proves invaluable during an emergency.

“Aastha and I have worked together for many of its members. They are enthusiastic and committed to their mission of being friends in medical need,” says surgeon Mrinmay Nandi.

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