By Amin Kef Sesay
The people of Sierra Leone have been informed by Choithram Hospital at Hill Station that contrary to rumours that the hospital is a money-making machine, yet it is still a charity entity founded and established as a memorial. But better of all is that the hospital still serves the poor people of Sierra Leone. This was disclosed by India Consul-General to Sierra Leone Harish Agnani. He was speaking at a news conference on Wednesday 23rd October, 2019 at Hill Station.
It would be recalled that a statement by the visiting Honourable Vice President of India, Shri Venkaiah Naidu mid this month was misconstrued and went virile on Social Media that Choithram Hospital is a charitable health service provider but is allegedly making exorbitant money from the public. Other allegations were that the hospital was not giving access to poor people due to its services. This, coupled with the VP’s statement sent shivers in the public and exploited by social media.
The situation has however been calmed down by the Management of Choithram Hospital which told media reporters that Choithram Hospital was not a charitable establishment rather it was registered as a Memorial to the founder, late Thakurdas Choithram Pagarani.
Mr. Agnani further told newsmen that Choithram carries a lot of corporate social responsibilities and philanthropy in terms of medical services for people that cannot afford to pay; as well as annually bringing in specialist medical teams from India, UK and Germany to perform surgeries and other medical procedures that are not widely available in the country and very expensive to perform overseas.
He justified that the hospital has to charge patients for its services which are affordable comparative to other facilities in the country. Since taking over the dilapidated facilities after the end of the civil conflict, it built about twenty new structures, brought in state-of-the-art medical equipment worth millions of dollars, as well as having a staff of about 250 that receive salaries monthly.
In underscoring his stance, Harish maintained that certain customers pay normal costs to aid the running cost since they have to take care of staff, upkeep the facilities and as well maintain various machinery especially the vital and expensive equipment to keep them up and running at all time.
Seth Shri Thakurdas Choithram Pagarani came to Sierra Leone in 1938 and started his own business in 1944 under the name T. Choithram & Sons in a small way that now operates in 27 countries. Speaking about the founder, Mr. Agnani praised Choithram as a great philanthropist who believed in returning a large portion of his earnings to the society through education and medical facilities. He said that his desire was to provide an ultramodern hospital in Freetown to serve the local populace as an affordable referral Hospital.
In order to fulfill his desire, his sons later started commencement of construction work of the Choithram Memorial Hospital (CMH) in 1994, but had to break off in 1997 due to political instability up to 1999. After the cessation of hostilities, the hospital was completed in 2000 and handed over to United Nations Peace Keeping Forces (UNPKF), free of charge, on the condition that medical facilities shall be provided to local population as well. Both the UN and CMH doctors worked together until 2005.
In January 2006, Choithram took over the entire control of the hospital and has since been operating very successfully with a team of Medical Experts drawn from various nations like Sierra Leone, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Nigeria, etc.