for The Times of India (Thane Plus edition) on Feb. 13, 2008
The hospital, known for state-of-the-art facilities, warm service and a healing atmosphere, is marking a decade of medical devotion.
It seems like some modern, oriental fairy castle with domes - a bright coloured edifice shaped like a cross - and just impossible to miss while travelling the local train stretch between Dahisar and Mira Road. Push through the main entrance glass door and you find yourself in a waiting lobby with a sparkling floor.
Right in the centre is the murti of an elderly saintly personality (Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada) seated on an elevated asana.
There is the faint odour of incense and very audible strains of “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare”. The walls are adorned with beautiful paintings of Krishna. Two young ladies, attired in sarees, are engrossed in a mobile ratha, carrying the wooden deities of Krishna, Balarama and their sister, Subhadra.
Is this a temple or a hospital? “This is a temple of medical healing; not just for the body, but for the mind and soul as well,” quips Director Trustee Dr Ajay Sankhe, who wears a sober, warm smile.
“Don’t be surprised if you hear this Hare Krishna mantra even in the mortuary! The eternal soul is ever existent and never perishes with the body. Therefore, along with expert medical care, we give tremendous support to the soul, especially at the time of death and thereafter, to move on in its divine journey towards God.”
An unusually special Department of Spiritual Care closely monitors the emotional condition and spiritual needs of most patients (especially those who are critically ill) and their distressed relatives as well.
“It has become our sacred policy to put gangajal [water from the sacred Ganges river] and tulsi [holy basil] in the mouth of the dying,” explains Dr VG Shanbhag, who heads this department.
“We read from the scriptures (as per the patient’s faith) and encourage relatives to do the same and pray, rather than indulge in futile lamentation. In this way, their emotional grief and mental trauma is channeled into something constructive and positive. This gives them the inner strength and fortitude to accept the loss of a dear one.
"This exceptional service for the dying (over the past 10 years) has earned widespread respect and unstinting appreciation from bereaved relatives, to such an overwhelming extent, that the hospital trust has taken that cue to heart - it will be inaugurating a full fledged hospice, with qualified nurses, doctors and counsellors, this July in Vrindavan.
The 80 bed state-of-the-art hospital, in Mira Road, runs to full capacity almost throughout the year. It provides all major fields of specialties except for invasive cardiology. “The OPD and IPD operative figures have increased by more than 25 per cent over the last two years,” says chief medical co-ordinator and dermatologist, Dr Ashok Shetty.
Over the past 15 years, each January, the hospital Trust organises a free cataract eye camp in the sacred birthplace of Radharani, at Barsana - This brings renewed vision to nearly 3000 villagers, annually.
Recently, the hospital launched its “Cataract Free” project under the auspices of the Teton Family Vision Foundation. More than 100 ophthalmic camps, in the Vasai, Palghar and Dahanu belts, have given sight to 600 patients after screening 6,000 cases. The objective is to make Thane a cataract free zone.
What makes Bhaktivedanta Hospital click? “The cheerful ambience - even our neonatal intensive care unit feels more like a multicoloured nursery - offset by courteous, smiling staff; admirable cleanliness; above all, dedicated and caring doctors; and, not forgetting the joyful strains of Hare Krishna chants that are broadcasted even in the operation theatres, intensive care units, wards, corridors, cafeteria and elevators. These are the major features,” insists senior orthopedic surgeon, Dr Girish Rathod.
This is certainly a valid reason for Bhaktivedanta Hospital to celebrate its 10th anniversary of medical devotion.