HEALTH CARE FOR THE POOR BY THE POOR
Dr Edric Baker from New Zealand began work from a small dispensary in the Madhupur forest area in 1982 together with the Church of Bangladesh. In 1996 he started the Kailakuri Clinic. This has grown into a rural health center (with inpatient and outpatient services) backing up mother-child care, diabetes, and TB activities. Patients requiring surgery are taken to other hospitals. Patients are only charged nominal fees and medication is given to patients on-site. Because patients cannot afford treatment costs, the clinic relies on donations to cover project expenditure. Many patients come from ethnic minority backgrounds. Just before the death of Dr. Edric Baker Mati started to work with the local community to make sure that the project did not stop after his era. In the present time, the Kailakuri Hospital is working autonomously but Mati is providing all the help it needed.
Providing rural health care is a huge problem in Bangladesh, as most doctors do not want to go to the countryside. Placements in the bigger cities are more prestigious and better paid. Hence Kailakuri has been designed as a paramedic-run health project, with medical supervision. All paramedics have been trained on the job. They follow a standard treatment manual and attend weekly half-day training sessions to increase their knowledge.
- Mother-Child Village Programme
- Nutrition and Health Education
- Diabetes Programme
- Tuberculosis Programme
- Surgical Transfers
Kailakuri Health Care Project receives 42,000 outpatient visits per year (up to 150 per day) and 1300 inpatients (35-40 patient capacity). In addition to this, 23,000 receive health and nutrition education. Annual project costs amount to $US 215, 000 (less than 10% administration costs).
DR EDRIC BAKER
Edric was a New Zealand citizen who qualified as a medical doctor in the mid-1960s. At that time the Vietnam war was building up. In 1968 Edric volunteered to work with the NZ Surgical Team in Qhi Nhon, the provincial capital of Binh Dinh Province in (then) South Vietnam. The Surgical Team worked at the Province Hospital and attended to civilian casualties.
He recalls his first lesson: “After several hours of traumatic war surgery on a patient who made full recovery, I saw him come back three months later to die of dysentery. That was the first step in my awakening.”
From the NZ Surgical team, after a spell in NZ, Edric transferred to a highlands mission hospital established in Kontum by Dr. Pat Smith. This served the ethnic minority hill tribespeople known as the Montagnards.
Kontum, near the Ho Chi Minh trail, was a volatile part of the country and at times the expatriate hospital staff were evacuated out. On returning after one of these occasions, Edric was struck by how the local (totally untrained) staff had managed to keep the hospital running. This awoke in him a vision of health services for the poor by the poor.
Here he was challenged to think about the provision of health services for the poor and the marginalized. He became very aware that for the poor in most countries health services do not exist.
The situation deteriorated in the Vietnam highlands and Edric was detained for four months. He may well have spent the rest of his life in Vietnam had he not been deported by the communists after this imprisonment. He set about equipping himself for a lifetime of service to the poor. Over the next few years, he obtained Diplomas in Tropical Medicine, Tropical Child Health, and Obstetrics. He obtained tropical experience by working in hospitals in Papua New Guinea and Zambia.
By the early 1980s, he was ready to embark on what has turned out to be his life’s work: developing health services for the poor, by the poor. In 1983 he went to Bangladesh, one of the most desperately poor nations on earth. Under the auspices of the Church of Bangladesh, he went to Thanabaird in the remote North of the country. Here, starting from scratch, he taught literacy and numeracy before training local people to become “barefoot medics” for the Church Clinic.
Through a mix of formal training and learning by doing, the Thanabaird clinic was built up to a staff of 55 by the year 2000. Of these only two had been to high school. The program was dealing with 16,000 outpatients and some 700 inpatients a year. With assistance from volunteer pediatric nurse Libby Laing, village health-workers also provided antenatal care, preventative health, nutrition, and family planning services.
A satellite health center was established some five km away at Kailakuri specializing in services for diabetics and TB. Here Edric was able to put into practice what he had been working towards for many decades. The diabetes program was managed and run entirely by diabetics. The TB eradication program was managed and run entirely by persons who either were being cured or had formerly been afflicted by TB.
In 2006 Edric transferred from the Church of Bangladesh to a local NGO, the Institute of Integrated Rural Development, and shifted over to work full time with the Kailakuri Health Centre.
Kailakuri has partnered with the MATI NGO (based in Mymensingh) since September 2013. More information about MATI’s activities is available at
In 2014 Edric was awarded Bangladeshi citizenship as a recognition of his life’s service to the poor people of Bangladesh. His greatest wish was that quality health care will one day be available to all Bangladeshis.
Doctors and Volunteers needed
Although trying hard, Kailakuri has not yet succeeded in finding a Bangladeshi doctor to work longterm in this setting. Therefore foreign volunteer doctors are welcome to join the project. The minimum length of stay would be 12 months, desirable would be 18 to 36 months.
Additionally, people with a good capacity of the English language and computer skills could come as volunteers for at least 12 months, preferably longer, to built local administration capacities and engage in fundraising and publicity work. Interested persons (aged over 25 years) please contact
Kailakurihealthcentre@gmail.com or visit https://www.kailakuri.com/