India: Affordable healthcare, an expression of God’s love

10 Feb 2023

Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church Christian Hospital Nabarangpur is a100-bed facility headed by Dr Santosh Kumar Nag, Medical Superintendent who has served in various capacities for nearly 39 years.

Dr Santosh Kumar Nag

Dr Santosh Kumar Nag talks about his services as Medical Superintendent of the Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church Christian Hospital in India. Photo: LWF/P. Lok

Voices from the Communion: Dr Santosh Kumar Nag, Superintendent of the Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church Christian hospital 

(LWI) - For 71 years of service, the Christian Hospital Nabarangpur (CHN) has been a healing ministry of the Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church for the people of the Odisha State region. For 39 of those 71 years, Dr Santosh Kumar Nag has served CHN and looks forward to the future of redeveloping the current facilities and offering more advanced healthcare services.  

Dr Nag, Medical Superintendent of the 100-bed Christian Hospital Nabarangpur, shares how he and his medical team maintain a financially self-sustaining healthcare ministry while caring for “the least of these.” (Matthew 25:31-46)  

What was your religious upbringing as a child?

My religious upbringing was full of love and nurturing. I am a fourth-generation Lutheran, baptized and confirmed in the Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church.

What inspired you to become a doctor and a hospital administrator?

I never planned to be what I am today. I studied Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry as my main subjects during school with Biology as an optional subject. Initially, I wanted to become an engineer.  I never wanted to study medicine because I was afraid of dead bodies. During that time, natural disasters made communication difficult and my application to engineering school was delayed, making the study of medicine my only option and I applied with reluctance. Coming from a lower-middle class, rural family who could not afford to send me to an expensive private institution, I applied for a government college, and by God’s grace was granted entrance on my first request.

Once I studied medicine, I then knew I wanted to serve in CHN because the health care needs of my people were great.  

As a child I had seen the dedicated service of German missionary doctors and doctors from other parts of India who influenced me.  Dr. P.K John, my predecessor at CHN, was one of those influential doctors. 

What is the mission of the Christian Hospital? 

Our mission at the Christian Hospital Nabarangpur is to provide holistic healthcare at affordable prices, and we do this as an expression of the love of God as shown in Jesus Christ. We are also committed to training those called to be healthcare workers.

Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church Christian Hospital Nabarangpur

Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church Christian Hospital Nabarangpur. Photo: CHN 

In what capacity have you worked in the hospital?  

For 39 years I have served at the Christian Hospital Nabarangpur in various capacities. Beginning in 1984, I joined as a medical officer, and entry level, and left in 1992 to attend the Christian Medical College in Ludhiana where I earned a post graduate medical degree in General Surgery. 

After completing my studies, I returned to Christian Hospital Nabarangpur as a consultant surgeon in 1997. 

From 1999 to 2001 I earned a M.Phil degree in hospital and health system management from the Birla Institute of Technology & Sciences, and by 2008 I was appointed the Deputy Medical Superintendent of CHN and was eventually appointed the Medical Superintendent of Christian Hospital, Nabarangpur. Currently, I serve on several medical committees and boards outside of the hospital. 

One of my other responsibilities is as a member of the Finance Advisory Committee of the JELC. 

How is the hospital financed?

By God’s grace the hospital is self-supporting. For more than 15 years we have not received financial assistance from any other sources from India nor from abroad. Monetary offers received in the hospital chapel, The Chapel of Hope, are used to support new church facilities in the villages within the JELC. About 90 percent of the expenditure of the new JELC church facility was arranged by the Christian Hospital Nabarangpur, so clearly the hospital is not only a blessing to the physical needs of the community but also a blessing to the spiritual life and evangelism of the church.  

The unique aspect of our financial success is that we treat all people regardless of their ability or inability to pay fees.  We do not refuse treatment to anyone because of financial reasons. Nearly 20 percent of our total revenue subsidizes the treatment of economically disadvantaged patients, which amounts to more than 224,400.00 EUR a year. 

We are also recognized by the Odisha State Government’s insurance scheme for people living below the poverty line, thereby cooperating with the government. 

The secret of this achievement is the dedicated hard work of the CHN team and their commitment to provide access to reliable health care and providing well trained health care professionals. Recently, the Odisha State Government has given us permission to start a nursing school.

The Christian Hospital Nabarangpur Chapel of Hope

The Christian Hospital Nabarangpur Chapel of Hope. Photo: CHN

What is the leading medical focus of the hospital?

The health issues in the community we serve are manifold; both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Christian Hospital Nabarangpur is known for providing good surgical treatment both in general surgery and Obstetrics & Gynecology. We are the pioneers of gallbladder laparoscopic surgery in this area and patients come from far to receive this service. In the region, Sickle Cell disease is one of the major health issues, followed by diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney disease.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Odisha State Government gave responsibility to CHN to manage a dedicated COVID care center with 200 beds located on a college campus about 2km away from the town. We treated more than 1000 COVID patients with less than 1 percent mortality. The CHN is the only mission hospital in India which managed a 200 bed COVID facility for the government while running the parent hospital at the same time.

How is the work of the Lutheran World Federation important for the Christian Hospital Nabarangpur? 

We are aware of LWF’s role in advocating for various social reforms, including just and accessible health care services and would like to continue building a relationship with the global communion. 

As we grow in what we offer locally, we believe that we can learn and share with other member churches about their healthcare ministries, thereby affirming our commitment to medicine and training, but also through sharing information with one another. The LWF is an opportunity for The Christian Hospital Nabarangpur to participate in the global communion in this way.

LWF/A. Gray