Dr. Narendranath Reddy

IN A HISTORIC LETTER DATED 25TH May 1947, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, at the tender age of twenty, stated: "I have a task: To foster all mankind and ensure for all of them lives full of bliss. I have a vow: To lead all who stray away from the straight path again into goodness and save them. I am attached to a work that I love: To remove the sufferings of the poor and grant them what they lack."

Putting this resolute declaration into practice, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has been working incessantly to bring about the joyous experience of compassion and love to all mankind all over the world. While the work of Bhagavan has spanned social upliftment, education, healthcare and spirituality, it is the immeasurable impact He has had in each of these fields that sets His work apart. What follows is a small description of the expanse of His Healthcare Mission over the last fifty years.

Sai Ideal Healthcare

While there can be many hospitals for the poor, Bhagavan believed that free healthcare, like free education and water, is an inalienable right of every individual. The public healthcare projects began when Mother Easwaramma suggested to Bhagavan to start a hospital for the poor. Thus began the mission. Baba laid the foundation stone of the first free Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital in Puttaparthi on 23rd November 1954. The five-room hospital with 8 beds was inaugurated on 4th October 1956. Soon this hospital began treating as many as 200 patients daily. Bhagavan visited the hospital often and even  looked after the patients Himself. In nearly 50 years since, Bhagavan's Healthcare Mission has blossomed into a vast global system delivering free healthcare in several countries practising the principles of Sai Ideal Healthcare as taught by Bhagavan.

Healthcare implemented by Bhagavan has always been universally accessible, state-of-the-art modern medicine and delivered with immense love, patience, altruistic care and compassion. His Healthcare Mission involves thousands of healthcare professionals in the world who espouse His philosophy and work under His direction so that:

1. State-of-the-art healthcare is made available to all people.

2. Economic considerations do not prevent anyone from receiving the highest benefits of healthcare.

3. Healthcare is delivered with love and compassion.
4. Healthcare includes treatment of the body, mind, and spirit.

5. Prevention is a primary focus.

What began in 1956 as 8-bed Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Puttaparthi is now a 100 bed hospital. Today the hospital serves people from distant villages. Specialists from the world over come here for an experience of selfless  service and love. To the villagers it is state-of-the-art healthcare next door. Besides the hospital in Puttaparthi, Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Whitefield near Bangalore was started in 1976. This hospital has in its three decade history treated over 2.20 million cases from as many as 2,100 villages.

In addition, Bhagavan has built two major Super Speciality Hospitals, one each in Puttaparthi and Bangalore, delivering tertiary healthcare. The hospitals of Bhagavan are a shining example of how ideal healthcare should be provided even to the poorest of poor patient with love and compassion without any charge whatsoever.

Inspired by Bhagavan and with His blessings, Sri Sathya Sai Heart Hospital, Rajkot, Gujarat was set up by Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation of Gujarat in 1998. This is the only hospital of its kind in Gujarat and the surrounding States offering quality healthcare services absolutely free to the weaker sections of society.

Besides, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations have conducted 39,500 medical camps all over India from 2003-2005 in which 5.2 million patients have been seen. The Organisation also runs 24-hour blood donation services which have received 28,625 donors in the last two years. In several cities 387 dental camps have been conducted in which 53,256 patients have been seen and treated. Bhagavan has also inspired 1983 eye camps serving 146,780 patients, leprosy camps which served 1060 patients and multispecialty camps including polio, diabetes and school health camps.

Veterinary camps are also held regularly, and to date a total of 388 veterinary camps have been conducted in which 34,811 animals have been treated.

International Delivery of Sai Ideal Healthcare

From its humble beginnings in India, Bhagavan's Healthcare Mission has now achieved global proportions. In order to facilitate international activities with sustained energy and enthusiasm, an International Medical Committee was set up with Bhagavan's blessings. These international activities can be broadly classified under Ongoing Healthcare Delivery, Disaster Relief, Medical Camps and Healthcare Services, Disease Prevention and Health Education.

Ongoing Healthcare Delivery

Sri Lanka: A hospice built by the Sathya Sai Organisation of Sri Lanka has been in operation since 2002 to provide loving, compassionate care for terminally ill cancer patients. As one enters the hospice precincts one sees the gleaming white dome of the attractive Sarva Dharma shrine. Since its inauguration, 65 patients have been looked after in the hospice.

Philippines: A periodic monthly clinic is run in the Philippines where about 100 patients are seen each month. In addition to general medical care and health screening, acute cases are referred to local hospitals and the expenses for some of the cases treated in the local hospitals are paid for by the Sai Organisation.

Indonesia: For the last five years, a continuing effort to provide free surgeries to the poor has been undertaken in Indonesia. As of September 2005, 313 free surgeries have been performed for hernia, lymphoma, cancer and heart disease. The Sathya Sai Organisation has provided free vaccination for hepatitis-B since 1997 for 11337 children. Free clinics are conducted in Jakarta and Medan on a daily basis providing treatment to 150 patients everyday.

El Salvador: For the last 13 years, a regular free medical clinic is operated by the Sathya Sai Organisation in El Salvador, where nearly 12,000 patients have so far been treated.

Mexico: Since January 2001, the Sathya Sai Baba Organisation of Mexico has been running a medical dispensary, entirely free of charge in one of the poorest and most populated neighbourhoods of Iztapalapa district in Mexico City. To date, it has provided healthcare to more than 20,000 patients

Guatemala: For the past 8 years, a free medical clinic is conducted 4 times a week in the premises of the Sai Centre in Guatemala 140 patients are seen each month for diagnosis and treatment.

Ghana: Since 1978, the Sathya Sai Baba Organisation has been organising a medical camp every Friday in Ghana and has treated about 5,000 patients since its inception.

Zimbabwe: For the last 14 years, a home is voluntarily run to help the HIV victims by a Danish couple who have been Sai devotees for many years. Many orphans who are the victims of the HIV epidemic are served with Sai love in this home.

South Africa: In 1984, a blood donation programme was initiated by Sri Sathya Sai Organisation of South Africa. After 21 years, they are still actively conducting the blood donation drive and on an average 10,000 pints of blood are donated each year. Between 2003 and 2005, 30 medical camps were held and 1,620 eye glasses were distributed after screening 2,700 patients.

Africa: With the blessings of Bhagavan, 3,244 cataract surgeries had been preformed until September 2005 in Nigeria, Mombasa, Ghana, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Abu Dhabi: A free Sai medical clinic is operational on all Sundays and alternate Fridays offering services like medicines, annual physical check-up and laboratory tests. There are also regular medical camps every month serving approximately 100 patients.

New Zealand: In New Zealand, 8 medical camps were organised from March 2004 to July 2005 focusing on disease prevention, education and health screening.

USA: In Northern California, USA, a free medical clinic was opened on 8th January 2005. This is called the Ashland Free Medical Clinic and is entirely run by volunteer staff. About 12-15 patients are seen every Saturday for a variety of ailments and treatment is provided to the patients free of charge.

Disaster Relief

Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has been organising effective worldwide emergency relief from natural disasters occurring in several countries. Relief has been organised for victims of earthquakes in South America, tsunami in Asia, hurricanes in the USA and conflict-torn regions of the world.

In December 2004, the world was shaken by the devastation caused by the Asian tsunami. Soon after, the damage was assessed through personal visits by Dr. Reddy, Dr. Goldstein and scout teams. Relief was delivered within a few weeks. Support was delivered to deep and secluded areas of countries that were not readily accessible to several non-governmental organisations. Several teams from the USA, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and the UK worked in places that were worst hit by the disaster to provide immediate and follow-up relief. About 30,000 consultations in various specialties, 800 cataract surgeries, grief counselling to thousands of people and 7000 pairs of eye glasses were provided.

The Overseas Sathya Sai Organisation had also provided quick response and medical help after the earthquakes of Talpetate, El Salvador in 2001 and the February, 2004 earthquake in Karangasem village of East Bali.

In the USA, the recent hurricanes Katrina and Rita had swept the States of Louisiana and Texas in a rage of one of the worst natural disasters in American history The two States had several million people displaced and turned into refugees overnight. The Sathya Sai Organisation of the USA responded swiftly and organised medical and emergency relief.

Medical Camps and Healthcare Services

In addition to disaster relief, the Overseas Sathya Sai Organisation has conducted free medical camps and charitable healthcare services in several countries. The global reach and magnitude of this effort has drawn wide support and appreciation from local media and dignitaries.

A total of 336 medical camps were conducted in the last 12 months when 77,000 patients were seen spanning the world from Argentina to Zambia, in 30 countries and 6 continents. The camps

provide primary care, internal medicine, paediatrics, obstetrics-gynaecology and specialties like cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology and ophthalmology. Patient education is offered for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, asthma and smoking cessation. Thus, the medical camps serve an essential role in the Global Sai Health Mission by providing easily accessible healthcare to the poor and needy.

In order to combat the spread of malaria, Sri Sathya Sai Baba Organisation of Kenya has embarked on a remarkable mission called "Sainet Project" to provide mosquito nets to the high-risk people such as pregnant women and children below 5 years of age.

Health Education and Dissemination of Sai Ideal Healthcare

Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has said that the duty of the physician is not only to treat with love and compassion but to educate patients in healthy living and thus prevent frequent visits to the physician and hospitals. Besides this, a task was undertaken to educate healthcare professionals in the principles and significance of Sai Ideal Healthcare. The first step in this task was the International Medical Conference organised in September 2005.This conference was unique and the first of its kind in the world to focus on delivering medical care with love, compassion and empathy.

Bhagavan's message to the healthcare profession is clear. Healthcare delivery must be patient-centered and suffused with compassion, love and genuine concern for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the patient. It is remarkable that this holistic approach to healthcare delivery was mirrored in the Medical Conference from its initial conceptualisation to the final valedictory closing. The delegates took this message and experience to their homeland and, through their own example, will serve as beacons and examples of Bhagavan's teachings.

Healthcare Mission of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has blossomed from a free hospital in India to span several continents actively delivering free state-of-the-art medical care and primary prevention with love, compassion and a patient-centred approach.

sourced: Sanathana Sarathi pgs 365 to 369 November, 2005.