St Luke’s Hospital is an 89 year old erstwhile CMS mission hospital. It played a significant role in providing much needed, quality health care to surrounding areas and the neighbouring states.
St Luke’s is located in Hiranpur, Pakur district. The district has the infamy of having the second highest maternal and infant mortality rates in India. The population is mostly tribal (Santhals, Maltos, Paharis) and there is also a large Muslim presence. The economy is mostly agrarian. However, the land is not very fertile and many local people seek seasonal work in neighbouring states. Other go to work in large cities. Skill levels are low. The literacy rate is low, especially among the women.
Since St Luke’s closed, local people now need to travel 100 km or more before getting any semblance of quality medical care. This is not feasible for most of them. There is a Government primary health centre in Hiranpur and a Civil hospital 20 km away. These are underfunded and staff morale is low so patients face the inertia and lethargy that are hallmarks of a typical government hospital. Most patients are referred further away. There are a few private nursing homes 20 km away in Pakur but these are very expensive and patients feel that they get a raw deal there. Consequently the patients stay at home and suffer.
One of the problems with health care in India is that alongside modern medicine there are other “alternative medicine” systems (e.g. homeopathy, Ayurvedic, Unani, Magic and many others). There is crossover practice, meaning that medications are prescribed not only by MB,BS doctors but also by practitioners of these other systems, without training to understand potential side-effects and interactions. Since the closure of St Luke’s, the local quacks, black magic practitioners and pharmacy shop keepers have flourished at the expense of these vulnerable people.