Early every morning, a steady stream of people make their way along the road to Purulia Hospital in rural West Bengal, India. Many of them have travelled for hours to get there, sometimes setting off in the middle of the night to make sure they arrive in good time. The hospital is known for many miles around as a beacon of hope – a place where specialist leprosy care is provided at no cost. This is a real lifeline to those living in poverty, who are unable to afford to pay for treatment at government hospitals.
Increasingly, as people arrive at the hospital, they are confronted by a long queue of people waiting to be seen at the outpatients’ department (OPD). Between 2014 and 2015, the number of patients seen at the OPD increased from 15,000 to 45,000, meaning that up to 300 people are arriving at the hospital seeking help every day.
World Leprosy Day 2017 is on 29 January. It’s a day when we look at how far the treatment of leprosy has come – and Purulia Hospital has been instrumental in pioneering such treatment. As The Leprosy Mission’s oldest hospital, it has been caring for people in West Bengal for more than 130 years.
But World Leprosy Day is also a day when we act to make a difference to those still living with leprosy. Many of them come to Purulia, desperate for help. And although staff at the hospital are determined never to turn anyone away, they admit they are reaching breaking point – because the OPD is under-resourced and in need of transformation.
Patients queue for hours in the heat outside because the waiting room is too small; the doctors work in cramped conditions where there is little privacy for patients as they undergo consultations; the toilets and washing facilities are limited, with no running water.
If Purulia is to continue to provide the treatment that people affected by leprosy desperately need, something must change. And so this month, we’re inviting you to partner with us to transform the hospital with a brand-new OPD. The new OPD will be spacious, with plenty of treatment rooms, new equipment and enough toilets and washing facilities. It will mean the hospital can cope with the increasing demands on its capacity and treat more people like Kushmi.
Severely disabled by leprosy with one leg amputated below the knee, Kushmi had an open wound on the stump, caused by her badly-fitting prosthetic leg. Struggling to walk, she arrived at the hospital after a five-hour journey. Kushmi urgently needed help and was soon in the expert care of Purulia’s doctors. But there are countless people like her that will continue to come to the hospital – and its our hope that they will receive the very best care.
This World Leprosy Day, partner with us to transform Purulia Hospital. Every gift will go towards the building project that will construct a new OPD, making sure The Leprosy Mission can continue to serve thousands of people affected by leprosy. Give a gift today and you’ll be sowing into the future of this very special hospital, its staff and its patients.
Find out more about how you can fundraise for Purulia by holding an event or church service.