If Munnabhai were real, then J Watumull Global Hospital & Research Centre would be the hospital he sets up.
This is a hospital that espouses everything the movie envisions healthcare to be – where delivering timely treatment is primary, and comes before filling forms or availing insurance, where patients are attended to on the severity of their illness and not on their ability to pay for treatment, and where, above all, a jaadu ki jhapi can do wonders to cure the sick.
Setup in 1991, Global Hospital, as it is popularly called, was set up with a mission to provide world class complete healthcare services, responsibly and with a human touch at affordable prices. And any visitor to the hospital will see how it’s living up to every aspect of its mission.
World class complete healthcare services are offered through its numerous departments – cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, dietetics and wellness, ENT, gynaecology, medicine, nephrology, neuropsychiatry, obstetrics, paediatrics, physiotherapy, and plastic surgery. The latter part of its mission is met through its principles of operating. Like the fact that these facilities are made available to both private (paid) and general (subsidised/free) patients. In fact, Shrinidhi, Assistant Manager – Resource Mobilization & Partner Development, who took me around the days I visited, shared with me how all child births ( i.e. for both private and general patients) happen only at the private ward. This decision was taken by the hospital when they realised that the incidence of premature babies is quite high amongst general patients.
Or as renowned Gynaecologist, Dr. Surabhi Singh, put it, “Here, we would not advise a patient to opt for a Caesarean surgery unless absolutely necessary.” A Caesarean surgery is more expensive than regular child birth and hospitals are known to recommend one even when not necessary. She says, “The opportunity to work at this hospital and serve others is the greatest gift I could have received.”
So, it’s clearly principles and not pay that attracts doctors here. A fact that’s reinforced if you look at actual salaries offered. For example, a junior Anesthetic at this hospital earns about Rs. 60,000 a month – that’s about one-third what s/he could earn at a private, commercial hospital!
In the world of medicine, where a shift can go on for days and where salaries offered can rise by the day, staying grounded to the true purpose can be difficult. Realising this, the hospital introduced the concept of “traffic control” a few years ago. A traffic control is a 2-3 minutes interval, during which spiritual music is played through the hospital. Held every hour, the purpose is to give the staff a break from their regular work and remind them of their true purpose at the hospital.
As we went from department to department on day one, I respected the “traffic control” and soon reciprocated greetings with the signature “Om Shanti”. It also struck me that everyone knows everyone – it’s like one big family!
On the second day, I accompanied Dr. Kanak to Chandela as part of the hospital’s Village Outreach Programme. The Village Outreach Programme (VOP) is a bi-weekly health service offered to 10 adopted villages around Mount Abu: Aarna, Chandela, Jaidra-Kyaria, Jawaingaon, Nichalagarh, Oriya, Salgaon, Takiya, Uplagarh and Utteraj. Chandela is an easily accessible village but I was told that some aren’t that easy to get too. The vehicle goes only upto a point, beyond which the team needs to trek up with the cartons of medicine.
We drove down towards Abu Road with two cartons of medicines that cover basic healthcare – rashes, coughs, colds, fevers, stomach ailments etc. Patients were aware that the unit from the hospital was visiting their village and had made their way to the primary school grounds, where two desks and chairs had been set up under a basic roofed structure. Patients needing medication or health advice were treated on the spot. Those requiring tests or indoor treatment were told to visit the hospital the next day. Last year, the VOP served 13,400 patients.
After examining the dozen or so patients for the day, we went across to the main primary school building. As we entered, we saw students being served milk, a snack and a banana. On enquiring I learnt it was part of the supplementary nutritional project that Global Hospital runs in 12 village primary schools. Its run as an extension of the VOP and all 12 schools have reported higher attendance and better concentration since the programmes started.
Post Chandela and a quick pit stop for some coconut water later, Dr. Kanak dropped me off at the hospital’s Trauma Center. Set up in 2007, the Trauma Center is essentially an Emergency Hospital. Located at the base of Mount Abu, as opposed to the top where the Global Hospital stands, the idea was to save time in driving patients up the hill to avail treatment. Moreover, it was set up to cater to victims of accidents (road accidents because of the terrain, falls from trees/rooftops and electrical shocks, which are all common occurrences here) for whom the 45 minute (/25 km) drive can truly be a matter of life and death. It caters to 3-4 trauma victims everyday ( in addition to those who come to avail of their other services).
Famous visitors to the hospital include the (then) Governor of Odisha Murlidhar C Bhandare and Biswanath Somadder, who is a famous judge at the Calcutta High Court. There’s also a photo of Baba Ramdev at the hospital. Baba Ramdev had visited the Homeopathy clinic many years ago when one of his followers shared with him that he had quit smoking-and-drinking after consultations at the Global Hospital.
Another amusing anecdote is that of a district administrator, who was admitted to the hospital for a cataract surgery. During discharge, he noticed that it cost Rs. 800 for the private room he had booked for the day. Pleased with the service, he joked “instead of staying at a hotel on my next visit to Mt. Abu, I’m going to opt to stay at the hospital.”
There’s also stories of misuse as sometimes, even those who have the ability to pay, try to avoid doing so. Or how after they began charging Rs. 20 for registration (which was earlier free), patients started carrying their hospital cards along (versus creating a new one every time they visited, wasting staff’s time in tracking their records).
But since treatment comes above all us, the hospital has learnt to let go of such cases beyond a point.
A notice on one of the soft boards at the hospital declares that as of September 2014, they were 63% compliant with NABH’s (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare) standards; I learnt from Shrinidhi that attaining NABH-accreditation was one of the goals for 2015. Now if there were a gradation for ethics, this hospital would have surely topped those charts.