Saturday, 27 August 2011

A Pharmacist's Story

I've just received my summer newsletter from a friend who is working as a pharmacist in Vellore, South India.

'A cow lies happily across the main road, barefoot toddlers play by the roadside, a chicken is being waved over puffed rice by a tree shrine...the day begins.'

She has been there for a number of years now, helping to run the dispensary and organising training for the many medical staff. She routinely finds employment as a pharmacist in the UK during her leave in order to be able to finance her next year's work in India. The hospital where she is based is the Christian Medical College and Hospital in Vellore which was founded in 1900 by Dr Ida Scudder in response to the suffering of the women of rural South India. Today, it is an inspirational place - one of India's leading hospitals with over 2,000 beds spread across its main site and a number of outlying sites. In 2010, it was named 'India's Most Socially Responsible Hospital'  in the Indian Health Care Awards and it was also runner-up in the 'Best Multi Speciality Hospital' category.  My friend writes that, this year, they have daily treated 2,166 in-patients and 6,180 outpatients from all over India, with doctors routinely conducting ward rounds in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and English. The average daily birth rate is 45; every day 125 operations are performed and 1,540 radiological tests carried out. These are fairly staggering numbers by any standards.

Christian Medical Cllege, Vellore, India with PI Suresh David

Many patients cannot afford the full cost of their care and the Friends of Vellore have a 'person to person' scheme. Donations go into a fund which doctors and social workers can access to help individual patients pay the expenses of their medical treatment and care. CMC does not distinguish between rich and poor or between those of different beliefs and creeds but treats every person who presents on the basis of their health care needs and so this fund is a vital support to the the work of the hospital. To give some examples of the kinds of need, a new born baby with neonatal sepsis was hospitalised for 20 days at a cost of £299; his family's income was £7.00 per month. A mother with severe anaemia required a Caesarian section and was hospitalised for 7 days at a cost of £199; her family's monthly income was £11.00. Both patients paid a proportion of their own costs, borrowing money to do this, but the hospital was able to make a substantial contribution through the person to person fund, reducing the loans these families had to take out to a manageable size. 

I find the story of this hospital and its sacrificially self-giving staff inspiring and moving. The Christian Medical College seeks to be a witness to the healing ministry of Christ through excellence in education, service and research. You can see more at

or find out about the person to person scheme on    

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