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“After their treatment elsewhere — chemotherapy and radiation — they suffer a great deal of pain,” Sister Cincy explains. “We give them free accommodations and medication. We try to help relieve their suffering.”

Many of Kerala’s Catholic–run institutions similarly have trouble with both keeping up with the newer, for–profit facilities and keeping down the cost of the services they provide. Fortunately, however, most fare much better than St. George’s Hospital.

In the heart of Ernakulam’s bustling downtown, about 40 miles south of Trichur, Father Paul Moonjely, the new director of Lisie Hospital, sits at his desk in his office, hard at work. Though already 7:30 in evening, a time when most of his fellow priests are enjoying dinner in the rectory, he wrestles with some of the hospital’s many day–to–day problems.

Built in 1956, the Syro–Malabar Catholic–run facility is one of the oldest multispecialty hospitals in Kerala. Once the city’s premier hospital, in recent years, it has lagged behind newer and larger for–profit hospitals. The hospital visibly needs some structural upgrades, better information systems and new equipment.

On a regular basis, Father Moonjely and the hospital’s trustees grapple with what to tackle first and how to finance it.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, Lisie Hospital remains a pillar of greater Ernakulam’s health care network. It employs a large team of highly qualified medical professionals, including a full range of specialist doctors. Each day, its workforce delivers affordable, high–quality and life–saving care to thousands of patients. Annually, the hospital treats more than 370,000 outpatients and 42,600 inpatients.

“The basic objective of Catholic health care is sharing in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ,” begins Father Moonjely. “Jesus went about doing good, healing people, curing the disabled. And as disciples of Jesus, we are today continuing the very same mission to serve the poorest of the poor as well as the ordinary person who cannot afford today’s health care costs. For us, it’s not a corporate business strategy. For us, it’s a social mission. It’s a social responsibility that involves the values and mission that we have received from Christ.

“At the same time, health care is becoming very expensive with all these specializations and expensive procedures, diagnostic equipment and life–saving drugs. We stand for quality, as well as affordability. We strive to provide the same health care that a wealthy person can afford in a private hospital. The same quality care is accessible to the average person in our hospitals, without compromise.”

In Lisie Hospital’s surgery ward, a few steps from Father Moonjely’s office, the truth of the priest’s words rings loud and clear. Poor and working–class patients occupy all available beds. Doctors and other medical professionals diligently move from one patient to the next, weaving through their loved ones who crowd the area.

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Tags: Kerala Health Care Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Priests Socioreligious programs