A walk through kolkata’s Amherst Street, or Raja Rammohan Roy Sarani as it is now called, evokes a deep sense of nostalgia. Among its treasure trove of old, historic buildings stands an imposing red brick structure better known as Shree Vishudhanand Saraswat (SVS) Marwari Hospital. Founded in 1919, it counts among the oldest establishments to offer primary medical facilities to the poor and destitute of the city and stands as an emblem of Marwari charity and compassion.
A rich legacy
Charity, compassion and generosity have been as much a part of the Marwari community as has enterprise. Marwaris have a history of philanthropy going back to their earliest days in Calcutta (now Kolkata) as also other cities, where they settled in search of fame, fortune and prosperity. The SVS Marwari Hospital stands testimony to this.
Dinesh Kumar Seksaria, the president of the hospital, says, “This hospital was established 100 years ago when there were only government hospitals to offer modern treatment, which we today call allopathic treatment and which includes surgeries, etc. The primary mission of the hospital was to provide good treatment to the underprivileged, who could otherwise not afford it.”
Adds Durga Prasad Nathany, who is the vice president of the hospital, “The land was bought in 1912 by five of our ancestors. The founders of SVS Marwari Hospital are Ramjidasji Bajoria, Juharmalji Khemka, Rameshwarlalji Dudhwewala, Kesoramji Pochar and Chimanlalji Ganeriwala. They decided to build the hospital in 1912. Any one of them could have given money for the hospital, but instead they decided to collect money from the Marwari society. They bought three acres of land and the hospital started in 1919… now we are going to complete 100 years.”
Established with the basic intention of offering contemporary and urban medical facilities to people of all social and economic backgrounds without discrimination, the SVS Marwari Hospital adheres to its motto, ‘To Serve the Poor with Care, Compassion and Commitment’.
As of today, it has not only successfully treated innumerable patients, rich and poor, but has also grown over the years to include additional medical facilities that have turned it into a multi-disciplinary and multi-speciality hospital. “We have only one mission and vision: to treat poor people. They also fall ill, but they cannot afford costly hospitals. Here, they can get treatment at much cheaper prices,” says Durga Prasad Nathany.
Though the SVS Marwari Hospital had humble beginnings, it now boasts four state-of-the-art operating theatres, 25 male and female surgical wards each, 10 intensive therapy units, more than 20 maternity wards, several general and special cabins and a few AC deluxe cabins. The hospital also offers specialised services to patients in areas such as cardiology, orthopaedics, general medicine and general surgery, plastic surgery, urology (including TUR), cancer therapy and surgery, gynaecology and obstetrics, dialysis, physiotherapy, ophthalmology, ENT, dermatology, neurology, diabetes and family welfare. It also has dental and paediatric departments, apart from a cancer detection unit and an immunisation clinic.
“What is special about this hospital is that it is a charitable and non-profitable organisation that has been serving poor people for the past 100 years; and it is continuously improving its facilities by buying the latest equipment. For instance, we have the latest ultrasonography and dialysis machines, digital X-Ray, and our operation theatres have heart machines. We also plan to construct a five-storey building with further enhanced facilities. Recently, we started nursing training and also special training on how to operate the latest equipment in the hospital. For this, we recruit people from not just the Marwari community but anyone who is deserving,” says Dinesh Kumar Seksaria.
What is also amazing is that this is a one-of-a-kind medical facility in India, which offers allopathic, homaeopathic as well as Ayurvedic and herbal treatments under one roof. Apart from these, the SVS Marwari Hospital also provides fully computerised pathology services as well as 24-hour ambulance, pharmaceutical and other diagnostic services. Now almost 100 years old, it holds a record of performing various complicated surgical procedures with an extremely high success rate.
Facilities at token prices
The hospital offers high-end diagnostic facilities such as several types of digital X-rays (with portable X-ray machines as well), ultrasound scans, sonography, colour Doppler tests, ECG, complicated endoscopy and laparoscopy to patients at token costs. Incredibly, the hospital also has OPD services for dental, eye, skin, neurological and chest treatments as well as Puva therapy—all at a nominal cost of Rs 20, an amount that only government hospitals can match.
Says Durga Prasad Nathany, “We have two divisions: one is the ward where we charge Rs 50 per day, plus Rs 50 as doctor’s fee and Rs 15 for food. These are our basic ward charges, and we have around 80 beds in the ward. We can’t keep it free because in a lot of cases people misuse it. These charges are applicable for everybody, whether he/she is a Marwari or not. We have another section where we have 60 beds in cabins and 20 beds in ITU and paediatric and gynaecological departments. These sections are expensive. But most of the times we find that these sections are full and the free section is empty. We feel the free section remains empty because of the mentality of the people. There is a common psychology among people that if it is free, then there must be loopholes. Two years ago, we started our gynaecological department, which has facilities on a par with Bhagirathi Neotia Woman And Child Care…. However, whereas the treatment there costs one lakh rupees, we provide the same for just Rs 30,000.”
Giving back to society
Focused on quality and care and backed by as many as 88 qualified doctors with specialist degrees, the SVS Marwari Hospital’s focus is to offer highly specialised medical facilities.
“What is special about this hospital is that it was built with the intention that it would be run with money from the Marwari community only and that it would not take anything from the government or any other entity. The hospital had decided to treat people only from the Marwari community initially, free of cost, but with the passing of years, the hospital has also started treating others without drawing demarcating lines, though the expenses of the hospital are still taken care of by the Marwari community,” says Durga Prasad Nathany. “We continuously strive to improve our facilities and we are constantly upgrading our hospital. We recently added 20 AC cabins with attached baths and televisions. We also have 40 non-AC cabins with attached baths and televisions. Though the charges of these cabins are a little more than the wards, they are still more reasonable in comparison to other private hospitals.”
Giving back to the community as much as you take from it is the driving principle of the patrons and trustees of the mammoth SVS Marwari Hospital, and this has helped it stands out as one of the most prominent and iconic edifices of Marwari philanthropy in Kolkata.