At this 'no bill' hospital, palliative care is free for all patients

Fr Joy Kuthoor and Sr Rosalba with a patient who has undergone physiotherapy at the hospital.

What makes Shanthi Bhavan Palliative Hospital in Thrissur a big name is because it offers a great relief to patients and all for no cost at all. No wonder, they call it the ‘No bills hospital’. Shanthi Bhavan is, in fact, the first hospital in India with inpatient palliative care facilities.

In fact, the treatment and medicines are given free of cost to patients. Moreover, the patient as well as bystander gets free meals three times a day. Such measures have attracted more patients and the hospital is crowded now. To provide space, the hospital CEO Fr Joy Kuthoor and administrator Sr Rosalba shifted their office to the verandah, where they use plastic chairs and tables. Dialysis machines now occupy the office room.

How it all began

Sr Rosalba’s father was suffering from leukemia and his condition deteriorated five years ago. She looked for a doctor who could offer treatment at home and soon found Dr Jerry, who worked in the palliative sector at Puthukkad in Thrissur. The doctor came to Sr Rosalba’s house and he was accompanied by Fr Kuthoor.

Sr Rosalba and Fr Kuthoor were impressed by Dr Jerry’s service and felt the need to start a hospital for palliative care. They sought the permission of the Archdiocese for the purpose and it was granted. The Shanthi Bhavan started functioning from a portion of a hill which had an abandoned quarry. An auto-rickshaw was donated by Jose Thommana, a local man, who took a loan for purchasing it. The doctor, a nurse, the father and the sister started travelling in the auto, providing palliative care.

They visited patients at the houses, but realized the acute need for a palliative care hospital with inpatient facilities.

The hospital and the way it functions

A two storeyed-building soon came up, housing the hospital. The funds were met by donations and the priest and the nun sought contributions ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 10,000 each month from the houses in the area. Their efforts bore fruit and around 6,000 people generously donated for the cause. The money reached the father and sister regularly and the hospital started functioning.

Facilities like laboratory, pharmacy, physiotherapy clinic, dialysis and ventilator were subsequently set up. All the treatment was given free of cost. The hospital highlighted its motto as ‘Make bedridden patients sit; those sitting stand and the patients who can stand, walk’.

Shanthi Bhavan Hospital incurs an expense of around Rs 15 lakh a month, but still it charges no fee on the patients.

The ever-expanding care facilities

Shanthi Bhavan now offers palliative care all across Thrissur district. Bedridden patients at home are attended to once in two weeks and elderly people every month. Such patients who register are shifted to the hospital in an emergency.

At the hospital, each bed has facilities to provide oxygen. Bedridden people are given physiotherapy and selected patients free dialysis. Moreover, Shanthi Bhavan has set up OP link centres in 13 local bodies through which free medicines and aids such as air beds are supplied. At present, over 3,000 patients benefit by the services of Shanthi Bhavan.