Rotary Club of Banjara Hills, RID 3150, Hyderabad, has upgraded its decade-old modest hospice into a bigger, modern one at a cost of ₹14 crore and the new facility was recently inaugurated by RI Director Mahesh Kotbagi. “We are working on this in a phased manner,” says club president Vikas Ranka, adding that 27 of 82 beds, 10 exclusively for children, have been put in place now, “and all the beds are occupied.”
The club set up the Sparsh Hospice with 12 beds in Banjara Hills on a rented premises initially in 2011 to provide palliative care for terminally ill patients. RC Banjara Hills Charitable Trust was established to look after the day-to-day operations. The uptake was very low then as the concept of hospice was still new and alien to both the public and the doctors, says Ranka. Awareness was spread through the media. “From the initial struggle of filling the place, by 2017, aided by our full time CEO, we had a large waiting list of patients needing a bed in our small facility.” So the club launched the home-care services. “As demand grew, we decided six years ago to upgrade the hospice,” he says. From then on despite changes in leadership the club focused on identifying land and donors to make its dream a reality.
After persistent follow-up, the Telengana government allocated land for the facility, and the club built a 60,000-sq ft hospice at a cost of ₹14 crore. The state IT minister K T Rama Rao has been a supporter of Sparsh from 2016 and also became a significant donor, says the club’s charter president and trustee Dr M Subrahmanyam, a regular visitor to the hospice since its initial days.
Corporate partnerships followed. The largest donor was Phoenix Foundation (₹6 crore). “We had over 100 donors, including from the US, who contributed ₹5 lakh or more towards the building cost,” he adds. Large-scale fundraiser programmes not only helped bring in funds but also raised the visibility for Sparsh. The largest of them was the Skyfest in 2015 spread over five days at the Gachibowli stadium, which included music, hot air balloon rides and para jumping shows by the IAF team. It collected ₹5.5 crore of which a major portion was allotted for the hospice. In 2019 a concert by noted playback singer S P Balasubrahmanyam helped raise ₹75 lakh. A global grant worth $188,000 is helping in the purchase of equipment needed for the new facility.
It has an auditorium, amphitheatre, library, dining hall, physiotherapy and prayer rooms for patients and their attendants. All facilities including stay, medicines and food are entirely free for them. “We are now taking care of 4,000 terminally ill patients, both young and old, and this includes our home-care service too,” says Dr Subrahmanyam. The running cost in the previous space was ₹12 lakh per month and it is now projected to be ₹50 lakh a month when it is ready with all the 82 beds, he adds.
Great care is taken in recruiting medical experts and care givers. “We stress on predominant qualities such as patience and compassion because patients need people who can empathise with their pain and mental health,” says Ranka. He recalls a recent incident about a young girl from a nearby village admitted in Sparsh. “She had just finished college when she was diagnosed with cancer. She was so happy to participate online in her graduation ceremony which we had arranged to be screened on the big screen. Such simple yet thoughtful acts are all that they need when medication and treatment are harsh on them,” he smiles.