Church’s new medical college all set for launch

Ranchi (Story By: Santosh Digal) Matters India: Stage is set for the inauguration of a new medical college under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in Jharkhand, eastern India.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das will be the chief guest at the inauguration of the Constant Lievens Academy of Health Sciences and Hospital at Mandar, near the state capital of Ranchi, on November 7.

Political and social leaders, besides top Church dignitaries in India, will attend the function to be held at Holy Family Hospital, Mandar, says a note from Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, chairperson of the college’s executive committee.

The ceremonies include Mass at 10 am followed by inauguration of the college and cultural programs.

The medical college aims to take healthcare to a predominantly tribal region. It has come up after several initial hiccups.

Earlier in an interview CBCI president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis described the medical college as the “long cherished brainchild project” of the conference. He also said the conference would seek the help of the Medical Mission Sisters (MMS), the North Eastern Province of MSFS (the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, also known as the Fransalians) and the Archdiocese of Ranchi to manage the project.

Fransalian Father Biju Kanichery, project director and CBCI Society for Medical Education-North India, said the project has gone through “a rather painful and discouraging” patch. “But after a lot of hard work and efforts from many quarters things can now be speeded up with the support of many,” he added.

The priest said the project would be “a solace” to the suffering people in India’s tribal heartland. “In the first phase of the project, infra-structure for a 500-bed hospital and the medical college, nursing college, hostel facilities and other ancillary units, are to be constructed,” the priest explained.

The new venture envisages holistic health for everyone, especially for tribal people and other marginalized groups.

The college’s mission statement says the project would create “a seat of excellence in medical education” that would provide quality medical care and prepare medical professionals who would cater to the health needs especially of the remote neglected rural populations of the nation.

It strives to offer continued compassionate care, foster a high-spirited, collaborative team; educate future healthcare professional imbibed with value. It would also provide state of art health service and combat local illness and disease. Through discovery and innovation it would lead the nation in quality outcome and patient safety.

The college is patterned on the CBCI’s first such attempt — St. John’s Medical College Bangalore. The new project emerged from the CBCI General Body meeting held in Jamshedpur, a major city in Jharkhand, in 2008.

India has at least 176 government medical colleges and 206 private medical colleges. As southern India has largest concentration of medical colleges, large number of students from northern India goes there for medical education.

Some 26.30 percent of Jharkhand’s population is tribal, which includes nine primitive tribes whose literacy rate is less than 10 percent.

The state was carved out of Bihar in 2000 mainly to focus the advancement of tribal people. The state contributes nearly 40 percent of total mineral production in India, with 48 percent of coal, 48 percent of bauxite, 45 percent of mica, 90 percent of apatite, and 100 percent of kyanite.

However, the state is among the backward regions in the country.

Industrialization and urbanization in Jharkhand has displaced 2.5 million people, 40 percent of them tribal. Nearly 12.5 percent households in the state are in the grip of severe food insufficiency as against the national average of 2.3 percent. Some 43.96 percent of people are below the poverty line.

Nearly 80 percent child birth takes place at home. Maternal mortality is high at 371 for 100,000 live births. As many as 45 percent women have reproductive health problems and 30 percent complain of reproductive tract infections. Some 70 percent of women in Jharkhand are anemic. Among pregnant women, only 38 percent receive antenatal care.

The infant mortality rate in the state is as high as 69 deaths 1,000 live births. Some 60 percent of infant deaths are neo-natal. Only 52 percent children are fully immunized. Some 78 percent of children are anemic and 59 percent below three years of age are underweight.

More than 60,000 deaths occur every year due to tuberculosis in Jharkhand. Prevalence of leprosy is 10 per 10,000. HIV and AIDS pose another rising threat.

The state has only 3,958 health sub-centers whereas the requirement is of 6,043. Among the sub-centers, only 1,736 have their own building, according to Bulletin of Rural Health Statistics in India 2012, released by the federal Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Jharkhand also suffers from an acute shortage of healthcare personnel. The existing 194 community health centers have only 22 physicians, 61 gynecologists and 19 pediatricians.

The proposed medical college is the Church’s response to this situation, the director said. It is named after Jesuit Father Constant Lievens, who is revered as the apostle of Chotanagapur. He came to the region in 1885, at least 40 years after the first Christian missionaries – Lutherans — landed in Jharkhand. Anglicans came in 1868 and Catholics a year later.

Father Lievens endeared himself to the tribal people fighting their land cases. The Belgian missioner is now a Servant of God, the first in the four-stage canonization process.

Fr. John Baptist Hoffmann, another Jesuit, was the brain behind the enactment of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908, to prevent tribal land alienation. In 1909 he started the Catholic Cooperative Credit Society, which became the backbone of the tribal community’s economic life. Missionaries thereafter have continued working for the all round development of the tribal, the poor, marginalized and neglected.

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