Rotary hospital provides quality care in Sirsi

To celebrate its silver jubilee in 1985, Rotary Club of Sirsi, RID 3170, set up a small charitable hospital. Today that has blossomed into a multi-­specialty 65-bed hospital, offering medical services to the people of three revenue districts of Karnataka — Uttara Kannada, Haveri and Shimoga.

The Rotary Charitable Hospital set up by RC Sirsi.

Situated at a prime location in the town of Sirsi, the hospital is run by the Vishwa Sewa Samiti, a Rotary charitable trust set up by RC Sirsi, with a matching grant from TRF, and donations from Sight Savers, England; Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, England (RCSB); Christoffel Blinden Mission (CBM), Germany; and a number of other philanthropic institutions. This multi-storey facility with qualified and skilled doctors offers treatment in various specialities and has five hi-tech operation theatres and other modern medical equipment.

That it is much more than an impressive brick and mortar structure providing top quality healthcare can be seen from a recent letter of gratitude the club president Shreedhar Hegde and past president Nitin Kasarkod, who manages the hospital, got from a senior executive of Tata Steel, expressing his gratitude for the “privilege of extraordinary services my mother had in this town in your hospital. The quality of service by the nursing staff and the dedicated service by Dr Rajesh Shet was absolutely commendable. While my mother unfortunately passed away on Jan 2, 2024, she spent her last few days peacefully at the hospital and then at home. That is something that I will always be grateful for. My respect and regard for the noble work done by your Rotary club has increased manyfold,” writes T V Srinivas Shenoy.

Hegde says the “founder and architect of this hospital is RI district 3170 PDG Subrao Kasarkod, and another stalwart is PDG Sadanand Nilekani, whose name the ICU and trauma care centre have taken. It is their dedicated efforts that have brought up this health complex to a level of prestige, which can be seen from the recent note of gratitude we have got.”

Over the last 35 years, this programme has succeeded in bringing back vision to over 70,000 poor people. This outreach programme restores vision to around 4,000 people every year.
Nitin Kasarkod, Past president, RC Sirsi

The hospital has also got a lot of support from Maruthi N Bhatkal, a senior advocate in Mumbai, “who has stood behind us like the Rock of Gibraltar, and has been instrumental in upgrading our ICU to the present ultra-modern level, offering emergency medical services,” says Nitin Kasarkod, past president of the club and secretary of the hospital. He is the son of PDG Kasarkod, who had originally started the hospital.

Hegde adds that prior to the setting up of this hospital, the people in this area surrounded by hundreds of villages, had to depend on far away city hospitals, and there were no good private hospitals operating in the area. “And, even when somebody could access a private hospital in a city close by, the cost of medical treatment even for basic ailments was very high, making it impossible to get that service.”

It was at that time that the club leaders decided to set up a hospital in Sirsi, and in no time at all it became a household name, known for its good quality medical service at an affordable cost.
A Rotary charitable trust under the name of the Vishwa Seva Samiti was set up to manage the hospital with the clear objective of offering quality medical services to the people, including those who could not afford to pay.

The trust is primarily focused on the prevention and treatment of eye diseases and has run a campaign titled ‘War on Blindness,’ says Nitin Kasarkod. Under this programme “we organise weekly outreach camps in very remote and unreachable areas of the surrounding districts to screen people for eye problems. Those requiring surgery are transported by our own bus to the hospital, given the best surgical treatment, and also accommodation and food, and taken back to their homes after the treatment, all free of cost.”

Women waiting for check-up at the hospital after cataract surgery.

Over the last 35 years, this programme has “succeeded in bringing back vision to over 70,000 poor people. This outreach programme of ours, which is funded by one of our partners, CSR grants and local donors, restores vision to around 4,000 people every year,” says Kasarkod.

Those who can afford to pay for the medical/surgical services do pay, and for others, the money is raised either through donations or by availing government benefit schemes. “We ensure that senior citizens and people with disabilities are looked after well and given special discounts in our hospital. Our Nephrology department is equipped with four haemodialysis units which serve patients round the clock. Free dialysis is done for very poor patients, with the hospital meeting the costs,” he adds.

Hegde says that this hospital has won “many laurels from reputed international organisations overseas, and was recognised as one of the best 50 Rotary service projects of the world and given an award by the RI president in 1995.”

This hospital also offers treatment facilities for specialities like ENT, orthopaedics, gynaecology, nephrology, emergency and trauma.

As for the funds required for all these services, Kasarkod says that while the paying patients subsidise part of the treatment for the very poor patients, “we also depend on local philanthropists, institutions, corporates, social service organisations and others for donations.”

On future plans, he says they now want to strengthen their ENT services, while ensuring that the best quality medical service is given to all their patients, irrespective of their capacity to pay.

Talking to Rotary News about the “excellent service” his mother got from the team of doctors and nurses at this Rotary hospital, Shenoy said that she was 88 and suffering from some complications related to the liver. As her caregiver, who spent the nights at the hospital, he says, “I saw for myself how she was treated by the hospital staff, the excellent care she got from them, made her last seven days in this world so peaceful. She was cared for by the staff so well, that she trusted them completely. Most of the time you see people doing service only in name… but in this Rotary hospital, I saw service being done from the heart.”

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