Christian hospitals and healthcare centres in India have re-organized their wards, staff, and equipment to cooperate with the government in addressing the Covid-19 challenge.

By Robin Gomes

Over 1,000 hospitals and 60,000 inpatient beds guaranteed by India’s Christian institutes, hospitals and clinics are ready and equipped to provide medical care to the country’s Covid-19 patients, said Indian priest Father Mathew Abraham, President of the Cristian Coalition for Health (CCH). 

“Christian communities in India are strongly and traditionally engaged in social works in the field of education, healthcare and assistance to the poor and needy,” said the Redemptorist priest, who is also the Director-General of the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI). 

Solidarity with nation, government

Speaking to Vatican’s Fides news agency, he said that he sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 25, expressing the solidarity of the CCH with the efforts of the nation and the government in facing the challenge of Covid-19. 

The coalition offered all its facilities available in the country, where a 21-day complete lockdown is in place until April 14.  

Christian Coalition for Health

The CCH brings together healthcare facilities managed by different denominations of Christians in India.  It includes the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI), the Christian Medical Association of India (CMAI), Emmanuel Health Association (EHA) and the Christian Medical Colleges (CMC) of Vellore and Ludhiana. 

Together, the coalition accounts for over 1000 hospitals and over 60,000 inpatient beds. 

In his letter, Father Abraham told Modi that Christian hospitals are already working with local government healthcare officials in the fight against the pandemic. “They will work their utmost and their best for the health and wellbeing of the people of this nation, to fight this pandemic,” he said.

In particular, the healthcare centres situated in remote areas “are preparing handmade masks or plastic coveralls as protective equipment for their health workers”, the priest said.

CHAI, the largest of the CCH members, on 26 February launched a multi-lingual online helpdesk called “Corona Care”, to assist people suffering stress and panic due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At a high-level meeting with faith-based and social organizations on March 30, Modi expressed appreciation and thanked the CCH for its offer. 

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India has a total of 1,965 cases with 50 deaths.  The numbers are rising.  

Catholic Health Association of India in numbers

Founded in 1943, CHAI, which operates under the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, is the largest non-governmental healthcare network in India.  With 3572 healthcare and social service institutions across the nation, it plays a vital role in India’s healthcare. 

It serves more than 21 million patients annually (approximately 1.5% of India’s 1.3 billion population), most of them poor.  In fact, 80% of CHAI member institutions are located in remote areas across the country.

The association employs 76,000 health professionals in various branches of healthcare, such as medicine, surgery, dentistry, midwifery, pharmacy, psychology, nursing and other allied professions.

Alongside 1000 sister-doctors, 25,000 nurses, 10,000 paramedics, and 15,000 social workers, who work fulltime, there is also a huge army of employees.

The 5 medical colleges run by CHAI members impart medical education and training in line with Catholic morals and ethics.

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