Patients and their relatives watch TV in the common room of Gandhi Seva Niwas. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
Cancer patients from outside Calcutta can stay in the city for treatment without burning a hole in their pockets, thanks to the Gandhi Seva Sangha’s home in Sreebhumi.
“Makeshift sheds are a common sight near government hospitals in the city, where patients from far-off villages often for the duration of chemotherapy and radiation. Seeing their plight, we thought of starting Seva Niwas,” said Goutam Saha, the general secretary of the Sangha.
Seva Niwas can accommodate 16 patients, accompanied by a relative each. There are four double-bed rooms with attached bathrooms and two dormitories with 12 beds each. Guests take turns to cook in the common kitchen. Every patient is provided with a set of utensils , which they return at the time of checking out.
There is a library with 8,000 titles and a common room with TV and newspapers.
A double-bed room comes for Rs 80 per day and a dormitory bed costs Rs 30 a day. There are discounts for the underprivileged. “The cost of treatment is high and people cannot afford to spend a fortune on boarding and lodging. So we charge the minimum,” said Aniruddha Ghosh, the joint convenor of Seva Niwas.
“We had enquired at a guest house but they charge Rs 600 per day, which was beyond our budget. This place is ideal for us,” said Arati Sarkar, who shifted to Seva Niwas with her husband, a cancer patient, in June-end.
The only restriction at Seva Niwas is that patients cannot stay here alone. “They must bring at least one family member with them,” said Ghosh.
Patients come here from Malda, Murshidabad, Midnapore, South and North 24-Parganas, Siliguri and even Bangladesh. “Those who come for chemotherapy and radiation have to stay for at least a month. Others come for follow-up treatment and stay for seven to 10 days. We have told government hospitals and doctors of our facility and they sometimes recommend Seva Niwas to outstation patients,” said Ghosh.
Commuting to RG Kar hospital, NRS Medical College, Calcutta Medical College and Tata Memorial Hospital in Rajarhat is not difficult from Seva Niwas as buses on these routes ply frequently from near the home.
There is a fruit and vegetable market near Seva Niwas. “Guests shop for their daily needs there. There are chemists, nursing homes and ambulance services nearby,” said Ghosh.
“Building this accommodation was an enormous task for us. We went from door to door to collect funds. We needed Rs 7 lakh to build Seva Niwas,” Saha said.
Six more cubicles are being built on the second floor. The Sangha is also planning a 50-bed hospital and diagnostic centre on an adjoining plot.