The Yuva Maitri Kendra set up at sadar hospital in Ranchi to counsel and treat adolescents. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Has any Ranchi youngster heard of Yuva Maitri Kendra on sadar hospital campus, a stone’s throw from St Xavier’s College, Marwari College and XISS?
Chances are they haven’t. A great idea of Jharkhand Rural Health Mission — 194 Yuva Maitri Kendras across 24 districts — has gone horribly wrong, even in the capital.
Conceptually, Yuva Maitri Kendra is a specialised centre to counsel and treat adolescents. According to the rural health mission society, each kendra — on campuses of sadar hospitals and community health centres — was supposed to have a doctor and attendant each to guide troubled youngsters looking for answers to sexual or mental health. Jharkhand started the project in 2010 with two pilot districts and scaled it up in 2011-12.
The society, through its adolescent reproductive and sexual health (ARSH) wing, had even trained and sensitised 200 state doctors to man the kendras. So, from exam stress to the dangers of unprotected sex, this was supposed to be the place to go to for informed answers.
“It is an excellent way to reach and counsel adolescents,” endorsed Jharkhand Rural Health Mission director Aboobacker Siddique.
In 2013, it is the kendras that are in big trouble. They are either locked up or serve as doctors’ restrooms, stores or common rooms for nurses to chat.
Take the one in Ranchi, which could easily have been the showpiece kendra. Instead, it gets around five patients on an average per week.
On Monday, when The Telegraph visited the sadar hospital kendra, the room was found locked.
Nazma Begum, an attendant of a patient admitted in hospital, sat nearby. “I have often seen nurses using this place as a lunch room,” she volunteered.
Adolescent girls, who ideally should have gone to the kendra, queued up in the outpatients’ department.
When asked, the girls replied they had not heard of any Yuva Maitri Kendra.
“It’s a good thought, but I didn’t know it existed,” Rina, a girl from Sukurhuttu under Kanke block, said.
Ranjeet Dubey, working with Jharkhand State Network for Positive People Living with HIV/AIDS, felt that the biggest advantage of the Ranchi kendra was its location.
“It is at the junction of three colleges, which is why it should have done really well. It should have arranged counselling sessions on sexually transmitted infections (STI). It should have gone to town with ads to connect with youngsters. It is the need of the hour. Unfortunately, hardly anyone knows about it,” said Dubey.
Ranchi district civil surgeon Dr Dilip Kumar Singh was struck dumb when asked about the number of adolescents counselled through the kendra. “I joined recently in January 2013 and am in the process of taking stock of the situation,” he said.
In Jharia, medical officer-in-charge Dr Shashi Bhushan Prasad said that the sahiyas were telling people about the Yuva Maitri Kendra. “We are getting good response,” he claimed.
In Khunti, Dr Sukhdev Bhagat said their kendra suffered from low to no publicity.
“Word of mouth brings in some patients. We’ve written on walls around hospital premises. In order to reach a larger mass, we need information, education and communication (IEC) strategies,” he said.
ARSH coordinator with Jharkhand Rural Health Mission Society, Rafat had numbers on her fingertips. “Out of 194 kendras, 188 are functioning. Problems are visible in the community health centres as doctors posted treat general patients too,” she said.
Too bad, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.