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Indian Christians offer hospitals, service to fight Covid-19

Over 1,000 nun doctors and 50,000 nurses serve in Christian healthcare facilities, mostly in villages
Indian Christians offer hospitals, service to fight Covid-19

A stray dog rests next to people during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the coronavirus in Allahabad on March 26. (Photo: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP)

Published: March 27, 2020 07:32 AM GMT

A coalition of Christian hospitals in India has offered Prime Minister Narendra Modi its institutions and staff to help the government fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The Christian Coalition for Health wrote to Modi saying that its 1,000 hospitals and over 60,000 inpatient beds across the country are ready to be used in collaboration with the government.

Redemptorist Father Mathew Abraham, president of the coalition, in the March 26 letter expressed solidarity with the efforts of the prime minister and the nation to face the challenge of Covid 19.

Positive Covid-19 cases in India had surged to 735 by March 27 from less than 100 a fortnight ago. India has recorded 16 deaths. The country is under a 21-day lockdown until April 15, aiming to break the chain of infections.

The coalition's letter expressed willingness to collaborate with the government "in the best way possible for the health and well-being of the people of this nation to fight this pandemic."

Father George Kannanthanam, a coalition official, said the pandemic posed a grave threat to the health and well-being of the entire population of India.

The priest, also national secretary of the Catholic Health Association of India, told UCA News that "the Christian community always stood in the forefront to fight any national calamity or crisis and Covid-19 is no exception."

"We want to do whatever best we can with the government to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country," he said.

The coalition's letter, released to the media, said member hospitals have been discussing ways to fight Covid-19. They have held coordinating meetings and webinars to help hospitals with disaster preparedness in case the virus spread to areas where the hospitals are situated.

The member hospitals are already working with local government healthcare officials in the effort against the pandemic.

These hospitals, mostly situated in remote rural areas, are preparing handmade masks and personal protection equipment made of large plastic bags for protection of their healthcare workers.

The coalition includes healthcare facilities managed by Catholic and Protestant groups and served by more than 1,000 nun doctors and 50,000 Christian nurses.

Executive director Anuvinda Varkey told UCA News that the Christian offer is an "opportunity for the government to utilize our facilities, especially in rural areas."

"Many of our village hospitals are more than 100 years old, established even before governments opened facilities, and local people are familiar and confident in our services," she said.

All Covid-19 cases are currently treated at government hospitals. At some stage, private hospitals may need to handle both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 cases.

"In any case, we are open to collaborate with the government," Varkey said. "We are already at the service of humanity and make our facilities available as the government wishes." 

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