Today I visited a small, privately funded, Christian hospital, named Shalom Delhi. It is one of two care homes in Delhi, but the only one to have three doctors (the other home has only one doctor). Last June, the government stopped funding care homes for HIV patients, thus leaving the two. Shalom Delhi, although a small hospital, contains an outpatient clinic, as well as a pharmacy. It is maintained by a larger health organization called Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA). The EHA is the largest NGO in India, containing 2,500 employees, and running since 2001.
Here’s a timeline of the EHA’s work:
Phase 1: Established medical services, and primary and secondary home-based care. Primary care is defined by patients who are unable to go to work or school based on their illness, while secondary care is defined as patients who are able to do some/little work or education. Part of this phase includes giving food hampers out on the first Saturday of each month. When I asked why not food stamps – the doctor responded that the patients would not go out to buy groceries on their own, it is more effective to just give them food.
Phase 2: Focused on income generation for women. Unfortunately this sector had to be shutdown due to lack of staff, and the program ended up sending women in the program to jobs elsewhere. Another section of this phase took children infected and affected (meaning that parents are infected) by HIV/AIDS. During this program, they are taught about gender, sex, and HIV/AIDS.
Phase 3: Focused on urban health and community transformation. The EHA adopted a slum and worked on making it more of a stable community through education, youth programs, and government help. This program ended up being a larger focus on the education of the transgender community. They also established a palliative care program, which is now coordinated by a trained head nurse.
Phase 4: This phase is location specific. In Shalom Delhi’s case, they must focus on educating the community of Delhi on HIV/AIDS. Haryana (a nearby state) currently has a large population of infected patients; therefore they created a care center to help out.
I started off my day here joining in on the staff’s daily devotional. Busting out the lungs of a nurse comes a song of Christian prayer. Soon enough, the rest of the staff joins in, and the small service has begun. At first, the whole work setting combined with a religious song singing came out of left field – I did not understand exactly how religious the entire staff is. I am Catholic, but only during Mass and retreats have I ever heard anyone sing like that. After the song, everyone opens up the hospital-provided Bibles to the Philippians, and one of the doctors begins a lesson on discernment. She spoke about how she prays to not only being a loving human, but also a discerning one – one that is open towards God’s future path.
I was later lucky enough to talk to this doctor for a while. (This is where it gets personal, and as uncomfortable as I am posting about God on the internet, I feel that this is a necessary part of my story here.) She brought up how from her strong, Christian background, she does not understand the mentality behind being a transgender. God made each one of us perfectly, why be unhappy with that? But then she went on to ask, “Who are we to judge?”. Overall, I find it unfair that this community is so marginalized and oppressed, partially due to biology and partially the larger society’s mindset. I later remember a conversation I had with Jayaa last week. She argued that God makes all systems perfect, yet unequal - slums, storms, and everything. The will to let go, care unconditionally, and have faith are much more difficult once one sees an unfair system. Needless to say, this month has been by far more of a spiritual experience than I have ever expected.
I am also finding the transgender community very interesting. I think I have too much to process before I can write about it, though, so it will have to be saved for a later post.
Back to healthcare, this is the most organized hospital I have been to. They actually take time to document the patient’s health care status in a formal system. Shalom Delhi does not turn down any patients regardless of space or financial status. The poverty line in India lies on 28 rupees per day - that is about 60 cents for us. Therefore, cost is no trouble at all. Sometimes people come in depressed, and need a place to stay away from their families, so the hospital takes them in. The staff of Shalom Delhi does not wear uniforms, in order to eliminate white coat syndrome. They truly believe in supporting their patients spiritually here, noticing that it does make a difference for their patients.
The eight patients I saw today were all HIV positive, and ranged everywhere from children to grandmothers, straight men to transgender. One nurse managed all of these patients in one large room. This is considerably a much better nurse-to-patient ratio in comparison to what I have seen in previous hospitals.
I cannot believe how fast time is flying by. I could easily spend a year here, trying to absorb everything. So far every hospital I have visited has been vastly different from the previous, all working towards the same goal. One thing I can for sure say, is that even though India has its problems, it sure does try for the well-being of all its people.