Christened Panchami, the project is being implemented by city-based NGO Karuna Trust and the Asian Research and Training Institute for Skill Transfer (Artist).
"We are setting up first referral units in rural areas to provide free maternal healthcare services in backward districts of the state to below poverty line (BPL) families and at a nominal fee to above poverty line (APL) mothers for every delivery," Karuna Trust secretary H. Sudarshan said.
The initiative will be implemented through the public-private partnership (PPP) route with funds from the state-run National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to adopt and manage the referral units.
"We have pioneered and implemented a PPP model on a pilot basis to invest the state funds optimally in public healthcare infrastructure through our socially not-for-profit team of professionals," Sudarshan said.
The trust will identify doctors and nurses for each referral unit, while Artist will build staff capacity, monitor its services, provide technical support and operate a helpline.
"Artist will operate the consulting units round-the-clock and no patient will be turned away. The initiative will improve the quality of maternal healthcare in the state," Sudarshan added.
The referral units will also screen, scan, conduct lab tests and supply medicines to patients and for institutional delivery.
As state-run referral units in rural areas are suffering from lack of qualified doctors and trained nurses, local population remains deprived of better healthcare services.
"As experienced doctors are reluctant to work in rural areas, we have to reverse the trend by offering best healthcare to rural masses," Artist chairperson Hema Divakar said.
On a trial basis, Artist operated a referral unit as a PPP model with the NRHM at Santhemaralli in Chamarajanagara district, about 300 km from Bangalore, and witnessed 150 deliveries in three months.
"On the success of the unit, which currently handles about 200 deliveries a month, the PPP model has been extended to Raichur in the northern region of the state," Sudarshan added.
The partners plan to take the PPP model to Gulbarga, Bagalkote and Bidar, the most backward districts of the state where maternal delivery services are very poor.
The partners will open more referral units in socio-economically weaker districts of the state to complement the efforts of the central and state governments in improving the maternal healthcare services.
"We hope more organizations will follow the PPP model so that maternal healthcare services in rural areas improve, leading to reduction in maternal mortality rate," Divakar said.
A premiere institute for learning, Artist, aims to improve the capabilities and competencies of obstetrics and gynaecologists across the country.
As a charitable trust, Karuna believes affordable, ideally free, universal access to health care is a fundamental right of all citizens.