As Kanhu Gouda lay on a stretcher at the Christian Hospital, his elderly mother Jambubati waited anxiously for one of the doctors to emerge from their chambers. The 40-year-old salesman of a jewellery shop in nearby Jeypore town had been brought in with swollen feet and with the skin peeling from under his feet. Gouda had earlier been admitted at a private hospital in Visakhapatnam town but it did not help.
A few feet away, Damayanti Harijan sat boiling water on a kerosene stove as she waited to get a bed for her son Suraj, suffering from piles. The Dalit woman from Jeypore had taken her son to a government hospital in Koraput, where the doctors couldn’t cure him. “I have heard a lot about this hospital. I hope my son gets better,” says Harijan.
Ringed by teak and sal trees, the brick-red building in Nabarangpur town is the sole bright spot in Nabarangpur, a district that has some of the worst health indicators in the country.
Everyday, hundreds of patients head to the 80-bed Christian Hospital that’s located behind the Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church. Here, everything from childbirth to gall bladder laparoscopy and complex gynaecological surgeries are a matter of routine.
The hospital was started in January 1952 by the Breklum Mission, a German Protestant missionary organisation, to treat missionaries suffering from cholera and diarrhoea in early 19th century.
Though it has only 14 doctors, just about half the number of doctors in the district headquarters hospital, more than 250 patients turn up at the out patient department everyday. The hospital’s 80 beds are always occupied with more than 120 patients admitted on any given day while over 4,000 small and medium surgeries are conducted in a year.
Santosh Kumar Nag, the medical superintendent, attributes the success of the hospital to the “commitment of our staff and the job satisfaction we get”. “We also give our doctors and nurses a chance to upgrade their knowledge in reputed colleges such as Christian Medical College, both in Vellore and Ludhiana,” says Nag, who did his postgraduation from CMC Ludhiana.
Unlike the PHCs and CHCs of Nabarangpur, where it’s a fight to retain doctors, the Christian Hospital faces no such problems. “We get a lot of postgraduates from the CMC hospitals in Vellore and Ludhiana because they encourage their students to work in hospitals such as ours. If one of our doctors goes out for higher studies to these colleges, we get a replacement from them,” says Nag.
Manbeer Singh, a post-graduate student of general surgery at CMC Ludhiana, says he is glad he came to Nabarangpur to work RESIDENCY?. “It’s a great learning experience considering the variety of patients I get to treat here. Even after my post-graduation, I would like to come here. For me, it’s a social commitment,” says Singh.
The doctors and nurses in the hospital get free housing in the hospital compound. At 7.30 every morning, Nag, the medical superintendent, holds a meeting with his colleagues and asks for a quick recap of the previous day’s work.
“Some days I stay till midnight and don’t even come for lunch,” says Nag, who himself conducts several surgeries in a day.
Though a private hospital, Nag says, the hospital’s rates are affordable for patients. While a patient in a general ward has to pay Rs 30 a day, the same for an AC room costs Rs 500. The hospital has been empanelled under government health schemes such as the Odisha State Treatment Fund, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana and Biju Krushak Kalyan Yojana.
Nag now wants the hospital to have 120 beds and hopes to recruit five more doctors, including a full-time anaesthetist and an orthopaedician.