Trust Object #6: “Medical facilities for residents, visitors and nearby villagers and schooling facilities for their children.”
This is article is part 1 of 2 which discusses medical facilities at Meherabad and Meherazad, and is the eleventh article in the Trust Objects and Purposes series.Medical facilities have provided free treatment and medicines continuously at Meherabad since 1925 when the Meher Charitable Dispensary and Hospital was inaugurated and supervised by Meher Baba Himself. Since then the facilities have gradually expanded and improved. The Trust now has a comprehensive set of well equipped medical facilities including five outpatient clinics, one hospital, one veterinary clinic and its own ambulance. In this rural and poor area the Trust's medical facilities have always been a vital resource for the community. The medical facilities have also provided unique opportunities for the expression of love and selfless service to others and for putting into action the principles of love and service exemplified by the life and work of Meher Baba.
All of the current medical clinics run by the Trust provide care and medicines free of charge. Medical care is provided to all irrespective of religion, caste, creed, nationality or socioeconomic status. Care is given to the poor and needy, pilgrims visiting Meherabad, and the Trust's paid and volunteer staff. The diversity of those served is remarkable.
Standard western medicine (Allopathy) is the foundation for the majority of the clinics. However, alternative medicine is also well represented since practitioners of homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic also work in many of the facilities. Dr. Goher prescribed many Ayurvedic remedies and Meher Baba himself encouraged many practitioners of diverse medical disciplines of East and West. This legacy has led to a harmonious coexistence of Eastern and Western medicine in the clinics operated by the Trust and also in the work of many of its medical practitioners.
Meher Health Center at Meherabad is located in the compound that was previously called the “Family Quarters.” The clinic was established in 1976 by Dr. Goher Irani, who was Meher Baba's personal physician and Mandali. The clinic was originally housed in a room in the current Mandali Hall building in Lower Meherabad and was later moved to its current location in Arangaon Village. The main clinic building was designed and built by Padri, one of Meher Baba's intimate disciples. The Health Center provides basic health care for more than 100 patients a day, most of them poor villagers from Arangaon and 60 surrounding villages. Basic health care is provided for adults and children. In addition to several physicians on staff, there is one visiting pediatrician, a gynecologist, and an ophthalmologist. Screening is done for cataracts in the eye clinic and suitable patients are referred for operation at Meher Hospital. The Health Center also hosts free immunization programs run by the government Public Health staff.
Meher Free Dispensary at Meherazad is an outpatient clinic that was established by Dr. Goher Irani in 1970. Originally run out of a tiny room on the Meherazad veranda, the dispensary was moved in 1978 to its own building at the entrance of Meherazad.
During its nearly three decades, that facility grew to serve 300-400 patients per week. In 2006, to further meet the long-range medical needs of the region, a new 18-room facility was opened. Since it opened, the number of patients has steadily grown, adding about 300 new patients per month.
The dispensary serves nearby Pimpalgaon village and 50 surrounding villages and provides free care and medicines to the poor and needy. Patients of all ages are treated for acute and chronic illnesses, and women are given pre-natal and post-natal care. Several staff doctors provide basic medical care, and there is an epilepsy clinic and a diabetes clinic where specialty care is provided. Infections and tropical diseases and health issues arising from poor nutrition and lack of sanitation are major presenting problems. The Dispensary also may provide partial or total reimbursement to needy patients when outside examinations, treatments, hospitalizations or surgeries are required.
The clinic's founder, Dr. Goher Irani demonstrated in her own life and work a balance of love and practicality that serves as an example to the individuals working in the dispensary today. She oversaw the design of the Dispensary and trained staff who are still working in the clinic. Numerous men and women were inspired by her loving spirit, dedication, and deep knowledge of medicine to pursue careers in various medical fields. Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals from around the world have volunteered their services at the Meher Free Dispensary, giving service but also enriching their lives and disciplines through their experiences with Dr. Goher.
Meher Hospital is located in outer Meherabad and was conceived and constructed largely as a result of the efforts of Dr. Goher Irani's far-reaching vision. She took great care in its design and implementation, and it was completed in 1985. This facility hosts a broadening range of health services, including a busy outpatient clinic, an emergency room and a laboratory. Monthly cataract “camps” are held in the hospital for about 100 patients a year. A visiting ophthalmic surgeon performs ocular lens implants in the operating theater and patients stay overnight for care and observation. A visiting dentist attends on a bi-weekly dental clinic for poor and needy children from Arangaon village and a once a year “Dental Camp” is held to educate the children on dental hygiene. Various other outpatient programs are also run at the hospital. Meher Hospital does not yet function as a full-time inpatient facility, but it will be expanded into one, as per the Trust’s Master Plan.
Homeopathic Clinic (Meher Free Dispensary, Meherabad) is the longest continuously running medical clinic at Meherabad. It was established in 1936 and for many years was run by Padri. At one time it was run on the veranda of Meher Baba's Jopdi (where He began His silence), and later out of Padri's own room. It is now located in the Mandali Hall building where it has been continuously for more than 50 years. Padri, among his many duties, was the original compounder/pharmacist of the first medical facility at Meherabad. He subsequently became a master homeopath and inspired others to follow that discipline through his insight and devotion to care of Meherabad Pilgrims and the local villagers. He treated young and old, men and women and even provided veterinary homeopathic treatment for the animals of the local poor villagers. There are now five homeopathic practitioners providing free homeopathic treatment to over a hundred patients per month. The clinic maintains an extremely well stocked homeopathic pharmacy (located in Meher Hospital premises), which supplies all of the clinics of the Trust with very high quality homeopathic remedies.
Meher Pilgrim Retreat Clinic at Meherabad is an outpatient clinic located in the Meher Pilgrim Retreat. It was originally housed in the Pilgrim Center and served the medical needs of visiting pilgrims for more than 25 years. The clinic was moved in 2006 when the Pilgrim Center was no longer used to accommodate pilgrims. The clinic provides care for pilgrims, volunteer workers, and Meherabad staff. Care is given by the voluntary medical staff, who provide first aid care and emergency services, mostly to visitors from all over India and all around the world. A vital part of the Trust's medical services has been the Meherabad medical staffs' input on public health. The medical staffs' advice on food safety, drinking water purification, sanitation and mosquito control have been indispensable in ensuring the safety of visitors and those living in this rugged rural and tropical climate.
The Trust operates three clinical laboratories: one at Meher Hospital, one at Meher Health Center, Meherabad, and one at the Meher Free Dispensary, Meherazad. Previously the Meher Hospital laboratory was extremely active especially in the area of microbiology, but it is now only periodically active. The Meher Free Dispensary laboratory has become increasingly advanced and provides even sophisticated analytical tests. The laboratories work in conjunction with the Trust's outpatient clinics. Each month they perform 400-600 clinical tests, thus providing rapid diagnostic information for a higher quality of care of patients treated in the Trust's clinics.
Veterinary Aid Center at Meherabad is located at the Farmers’ Educational Center on the edge of Meherabad Estate next to Arangaon Village. It began in the early1980's and was an outgrowth of the work of Dadi Kerawalla, former Trustee and long-time follower of Meher Baba. He worked tirelessly to help the local farmers and villagers with farming and animal care. A visiting veterinarian now provides care to the cows, bullocks, goats, dogs, etc. of the villagers and local community. Free veterinary treatment is given to about 4000 animals annually. The anti-Rabies program (immunization for dogs in the community) is run by the Meherabad medical staff at the Veterinary Center.
Services at the Veterinary Center have slowed in the last few years, but a major renovation plan is under review and the clinic's services will be augmented and enhanced within the next year.
The next article in this series will deal with the second part of sixth object enumerated in the Trust Deed concerning educational facilities: "Medical facilities for residents, visitors and nearby villagers and schooling facilities for their children."