It’s a story rarely seen except on celluloid. A group of workers of Belur-based Indo-Japan Steel’s employees union and People Health Service Association, a body set up by a few junior doctors, are now going to build a third hospital on 33 acres of land near Santiniketan. Earlier, these two bodies had begun a basic health centre in 1983, followed by two hospitals.
Significantly, the land identified for this project is bigger than even SSKM Hospital, the largest state-run hospital in Bengal.
“We are going to inaugurate a small health centre on the plot on September 18. We hope to start construction this year itself. The size of the (third) hospital will depend on the demand of the services and the funds that we can generate,” said Dr Anil Saha, secretary, Belur Sramajibi Swastha Prakalpa Samiti (BSSPS), that runs the two hospitals.
The land was donated by Swapan Ruj, the brother of Tapan Ruj, who was shot dead by the police in the early seventies. The plot is beside the Kopai river and word spread in the area that anybody who went to work on the land will face certain death.
They will shortly start raising funds for the project. “We don’t take funds from the government on principle,” added Dr Saha.
Their track record, though low-profile, however, indicates Saha and his team can achieve something big.
In 1994, the first hospital that came up was a four-bedded facility built after razing to ground an abandoned house in Belur. It later grew into a 100-bed hospital. In 2010, a humble outdoor service was launched in Serampore — it has now blossomed into a 150-bed hospital, the second by the Samiti. A total of 47 doctors and 200 staff work in these hospitals.
“They have all come here (to the first two hospitals) with a mission to serve, not make a career for themselves,” asserted said Phanigopal Bhattacharya (67), the working president of BSSPS.
These hospitals treat cases of general medicine, surgery, gynaecology, gastroenterology, urology, even plastic and oncological cases. Both hospitals are equipped with OTs and ICUs.
“We conduct all operations here except those that involve opening the skull of the patient,” added Bhattacharya.
There are two sources of funds. One, donation by people, and the revenue generated by the fees paid by the patients.
“It’s a non-profit organisation. We don’t get any funds from the government,” said Bhattacharya.
While the other private hospitals in the city on an average charge Rs 1.5 lakh for angioplasty and Rs 15,000 for angiography, this hospital charges Rs 60,000 for angioplasty, Rs 6,000 for angiography (including hospital stay and food) to cite random examples. The charges are minimal for a number of reasons, one of which is that the doctors and the authorities don’t take any commission for buying equipment like stents.
The origins of the organisation make the story rather startling. In 1983, Sramajibi Swastha Prakalpa Samiti was formed by the workers of Indo-Japan Steel and the doctors’ body. In July 1996, the factory of Indo-Japan Steel closed down, making the futures of the workers uncertain.
In 1997, the workers put their energies into the health centre that grew in size to manufacture acupuncture needles needed for the unit.
About 100 workers of Indo Japan Steel are still associated with the organisation. Bhattacharya himself was a worker of the company. The organisation is also trying to set up a blood bank.