The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Solace centre for the dying
Cottages at Rs 500 a day, cubicles for the poor at Joka hospice

A place to die with dignity and, maybe, in peace. For so many, it’s a final wish left unfulfilled.

But now, a retired additional director of heath services has taken the lead to set up the city’s “first proper hospice”. The centre, tending to the terminally-ill, will throw open its doors this summer at Joka.

“During my stint in the heath department, I have seen numerous patients suffering both physically and mentally after being diagnosed terminally-ill. It’s been my life’s goal to do something concrete so they can at least die peacefully,” says Nitya Ranjan Ghosh, who retired on December 31.

Ghosh, who was at the helm of the government’s AIDS management programme for over a decade, has teamed up with two other retired government doctors — Ashok Roy, ex-senior cardiologist of SSKM Hospital and Dr Kironmoy Mitra, former head of department of medicine, R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital — to push the project through.

“The move to set up a quality hospice is aimed at providing the dying with not only medical treatment but also mental and spiritual support, so that they can spend their last days in peace. Ours will be a holistic approach and a team of experts from various walks of life will be stationed at the centre to render round-the-clock service,” says Ghosh.

A team of volunteers will soon visit the hospice in Maharashtra and study how patients are treated there. “We hear an NGO is running the Mumbai hospice. Though we shall do it our way, we need to know what methods they are following,” added Ghosh.

A plot has been acquired in the name of a registered society on Diamond Harbour Road in Joka, where five cottages and 20 cubicles will come up initially for those suffering from cancer or AIDS. “At the moment, we shall concentrate on two such dreaded diseases and start admitting other types of patients at a later stage,” said Ghosh.

The cottages will come with a tag of Rs 500 per day and provide round-the-clock care and treatment. Of the 20 cubicles, 10 will be for the less privileged, at a moderate cost, while the rest will be free beds for the poor.

Cardiologist Ashoke Roy is clear that they will not refer their critical patients to other hospitals. “A hospital where the terminally-ill are being kept with thousands of other patients cannot provide all-round care and treatment,” he observed.

Both the Central and state governments will be approached for support. Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said on Tuesday that the government would examine the possibility of disbursing funds once the hospice management approaches them. “Funds can be provided from the state AIDS control and prevention programmes if terminally-ill AIDS patients are being taken care of,” he added.

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