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Edric explains to Jo Morgan the philosophy of heath care for the poor by the poorGareth Morgan

New Zealand’s own Mother Teresa

Edric explains to Jo Morgan the philosophy of heath care for the poor by the poor

Edric explains to Jo Morgan the philosophy of heath care for the poor by the poor, and the efforts to enable impoverished people to care for their own

As well as being in India to follow our beloved Phoenix, Jo and I have been visiting one of our Morgan Foundation foreign aid projects in Bangladesh and it has been a very special opportunity to see the on-the-ground work of one of our most special, Kiwi Heroes.

Deep in the heart of rural Bangladesh, home to some of the most impoverished people on earth lies the Kailakuri Health Centre, creation of Dr Edric Baker a New Zealander who has devoted the last 33 years of his life to creating a unique formula of providing health care for the impoverished of this populous country. If I were a religious person I would describe this man as a modern day saint. That New Zealanders still know so very little of his work is somewhat of a testimony to our isolation from the world at large, our exclusion of ex-pat New Zealanders performing outside of the corporate sector.

There is no access to free public health care in Bangladesh, you need money. That locks out the poor and the destitute who comprise much of the population. No wonder their maternal mortality rate is 24 times ours, their infant mortality rate ten times, and their life expectancy for those that make it to a live birth, 72% of ours.

Edric’s formula is no-frills medical care that can be administered by his team of paramedics drawn from the target patient population (and the education levels of most of whom are well below School C) under supervision from a qualified doctor. For the ongoing financial viability of the project it’s critical that his no-frills approach is maintained. The sustainability of the hospital and health outreach services would quickly disappear if

(a)   More expensive drugs than necessary were purchased, a feature common in modern health care systems who must have the latest and are susceptible to the marketing hype of Pharma.

(b)   Administrators tried to “upgrade” methods to those found in modern hospitals – such as having beds, computer systems etc.

(c)    Replacing staff with medically-trained professionals on (even Bangladeshi) market salaries

(d)   Dropping the patient support model wherein a family member is required to accompany the inpatient to hospital to perform the requisite nursing duties. If Kailakuri had to employ nurses the project would implode.

(e)   The centre provided transport services for incapacitated patients – families bring their needy in using what transport they can afford, often a local cycleshaw

What Edric has achieved is truly phenomenal and the essence of his “care for the poor by the poor” has been establishing a methodology attuned to the health needs of this otherwise ignored patient group, a service that can be maintained and implemented in large by this target patient group itself requiring very little in the way of outside intervention. A dependence on such intervention would expose the service to the risk of collapse at the whim of any removal or reduction in such an intervention.

This man, who lives a simple but busy life with next to no personal possessions of his own, has a quality most of us are in awe of. The sheer volume of annual health care his operation gets through each year – 33,000 outpatients, 1,000 inpatients, and 21,000 receiving health education – for an annual total budget equating to the salaries of just two NZ city council middle managers, is something I would hope would make New Zealanders sit up and reflect upon how fat, frivolous and unproductive our own lifestyle could be described. Problems? We don’t appreciate the meaning of the word.


  • Lawrence

    Great stuff Gareth, keep up the good work

  • Shannon Smith

    Sounds like a wonderful guy Gareth

  • Bill Hardie

    Thanks for sharing this inspirational story Gareth

  • Ken Usmar

    A good man indeed. A shining example to everyone.

  • Arthur Yeo

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing this information Gareth. In the words of Fred Dagg, “We don’t know how lucky we are.”

  • Nick Sykes

    Makes you realise how “up ourselves” we really are, out of touch with the “real world”

  • Robert

    Thanks for such a wonderful and humbling story Gareth. An inspiration to us all and a shining example of the fact that people left to their own devices and ingenuity can do just fine thanks without the state. It also reaffirms the idea that generally speaking we here in NZ have become a bloated, inefficient, state dependant and quite frankly pathetic culture that no longer takes responsibility for the future consequences of it’s own actions.

  • marnie

    I concur with Arthur Yeo/fred dagg…. we really don’t know how lucky we are , many of us anyway, cheers

  • Storm1

    Kiaora Gareth. Just wondering Edric’s team of paramedics are drawn from the target patient population…Do any of them practice a system of traditional healing that incorporates the use of plant-based remedies, much like the traditional Maori?
    You know something Gareth, it is the humble and meek that are usually the ones that do all the giving…and who hold the higest mantle of Mana and they are not known because they are busy getting on with the job at hand…There’s never enough hours in a day…and it is these people who are the true Kights and Dames…Mother Teresa left a leagcy of aroha for others to carry on and Edric’s walking the walk in humility just like her and I’m sure she’s smiling.

    • Katherine

      How right you are. Just serving people and not looking for kudos. Not like the celebrity culture we worship in NZz

    • Gareth Morgan

      medicine is huge in Bangladesh, some of it natural some of it nothing
      more than a way for “medicine men” to extort money from the poor. The
      number of cases we came across of people who had gone from poor to
      destitute because a Sharma dad extorted
      them for all their money and property in order to provide the magic cure
      – was disgusting. But yes natural methods are commonplace.

    • Peter Wilson

      Yes Storm, all paramedics are ordinary folks from the local villages who have been trained on the job.

  • Maggy

    refreshingly simple solutions to amazingly challenging problems….what a gem

  • Terry Goodall

    We just have NO idea – so we’re very grateful for this insight into “how the other half lives” and copes. And we think we’ve got problems! Inspirational – so, how do we pitch in to help?

  • greg

    Great article. My wife and I lived in Bangladesh for a number of years and came across Dr. Baker many times. In fact my wife helped him out a few times with articles and newsletters. He is all that you say he is – an inspirational man, with no other motivation but to serve the people of Bangladesh. He is without doubt one of the most inspiring of people I have met – certainly could easily be classified as NZ’s Mother Theressa!!

  • Ataur Rahman

    Very well written article Gareth.Having visited Kailakuri Centre three times already i am very familiar with the wonderful work Edric is doing for the poor of my country.I am doing my best to promote this in NZ Bangladeshi community & also through my network of family & friends in Bangladesh ,NZ & overseas.Thank you Morgan Foundation for your support.
    Ataur Rahman—Honorary Consul for Bangladesh in New Zealand

  • Raymond Watchman

    Gareth, would your Foundation be willing to consider funding the making of a TV documentary on Dr Edric Baker and his work? I think a doco-maker like Rob Harley would do an excellent job. Stories like this need to be told.

    • Gareth Morgan

      One has just been completed and it is due to show on Close Up this week

  • Graeme

    Just stayed in Bangladesh with ou son who works for a childrens charity there, they have very little money but nor would they ask for it – the story of Edric Baker resonates with our experience – just shows how much you can do with so little.

  • John

    A truly inspiring person. Highly Deserving of an NZ honour. As a really committed and humble person I feel sure he would prefer long term support for Kailakuri and a succession of Drs to maintain his programme and spread it through Bangladesh.
    Great to see Gareth has visited Edric at his work.

  • Denis S

    Gareth I had the privilege of meeting Edric on his short visit back to NZ recently. A humble man with a servant’s heart and a desire to help the poor and downtrodden in Bangladesh. Clearly an inspiration to all of us. as you say with our opulent lifestyle – Seems the more we have the more we want and the more dissatisfied we become with what we have. My friend Christine is helping Edric and enjoys the simple lifestyle (but not the heat!) I’m thinking Edric shows his Christian faith through his life in service for these people in a way that is it an example for us all. Gareth – thanks for all you’re doing to help people like Edric.

  • Belinda

    This is wonderfully inspiring. I am going to present this to the students I teach, You are so right – too many of us don’t know about our home-grown saints working abroad.

  • Dip Karmokar

    This is amazing.