‘2-Rupee doctor’ passes away due to COVID-19 in Kurnool

Amaravati: With the commercialization of hospitals increasing, a doctor in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh treated patients at Rs 2. He was renowned and beloved by many, with patients coming in not just from Kurnool, but from nearby districts of neighboring states. His empathy and kindness towards patients, especially those who couldn’t afford expensive healthcare, had made him widely popular. 

MD from KMC

Dr KM Ismail Hussain had completed his MBBS and MD from Kurnool Medical College (KMC). Served as a faculty member and Superintendent at the teaching hospital, before retiring voluntarily nearly 25 years ago and opening his own nursing home, the KM Hospital, in One Town area. 

Never cared about money

“He never cared about money, never saw how much the patients paid. After consulting him, people would give what they could,” says Abdul Rawoof, an Imam who has been associated with Dr Ismail’s family for nearly 45 years, the TNM reported.

“These days, where many commercial, private hospitals fleece money from patients, he would only prescribe tests and medicine when necessary. Even then, if a patient couldn’t pay the full price for tests and treatment, they could pay what they could afford and walk out,” says Abdul.

“Earlier, people would often pay him just two rupees. Even now, during his last days at work, people would leave Rs 10 or 20, or whatever they could afford. Even if someone couldn’t pay, he wouldn’t bother,” says Abdul.

2-rupee doctor

Through the ‘80s and ‘90s, he is said to have been called the 2-rupee doctor, as many people thought that was his official fee for consultation. 

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“He had always been so accessible and popular, that patients who were used to going to him started queueing up outside his house. He would never refuse to see a patient for any reason. So after a week, out of compulsion, he went back to work at the hospital,” his friend, Shafath Ahmed Khan, tells TNM.

On April 14, Dr Ismail breathed his last. The next day, his test results revealed that he had died from COVID-19. ‘While he hadn’t come in contact with any known COVID-19 patients, he could have been infected through anyone, as he had been working in a COVID-19 red-zone,’ authorities said.

The Cardboard box

Dr Ismail turned 76 a few months ago, on December 5.

“There would be a cardboard box in which patients would drop money and take back change on their own. They would drop Rs 10 and take Rs 5, or put in Rs 50 and take back Rs 30. It was completely up to them,” recalls Kalkura Chandrashekhar, a Kurnool-based historian and political observer who was a close friend of Dr Ismail. 

Service irrespective of religion

Shafath, who is an advocate based in Hyderabad, says that Dr Ismail’s popularity went much beyond the Muslim community of Kurnool. “He also served many Hindu families, including the Jain and Marwari communities in the town. I myself would often go to him all the way from Hyderabad if I had any health issues,” he says. 

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Dr Ismail would start 7 AM and continue seeing patients until the last one of them, sometimes staying at the hospital until 1 or 2 am. “Earlier when I was working elsewhere, I would sometimes stay at his home when I visited Kurnool. One night, a man came to his house at around 2 am, complaining of a stomach ache. The doctor took a look at him and gave his advice and medicine. The man simply thanked him and left. He didn’t feel obliged to pay a fee, and no one asked him,” says Abdul, adding that even during Ramzan, Dr Ismail would be available at all times. 

On his last day at work, Dr Ismail had returned home late at night as usual. The next day upon waking up he felt breathless, and was admitted to the hospital. He passed away within a couple of days at the Kurnool Government General Hospital. 

KM Hospital sealed

KM Hospital has since been sealed soon after he tested positive with COVID-19 on April 15. Scores of hospital staff and recently-consulted patients were shifted to quarantine centres. Six members of his family, including his wife and son, have tested positive for COVID-19, and are under quarantine. He is survived by his wife, three daughters and a son, as reported by TNM.

His final rites were carried out as per Government guidelines with only five persons, including his son, being present at the funeral. 

“It’s unfortunate that we lost him this way. Otherwise, half of Kurnool would have attended his memorial service,” Abdul says.

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