South Kerala Medical Mission
The Dr. Somervell Memorial CSI Medical College and Hospital was established in 2002.It is one of the first four private Medical Colleges of Kerala owned by the South Kerala Medical Mission (SKMM) of the South Kerala Diocese (SKD)which is one of the 22 dioceses of thechurchofSouth India(CSI)
South Kerala Diocese Medical Mission
The story of the origin of the South Kerala Medical Mission is more than a Century old, since 1892 to be exact. By that time, the London Missionary Society (LMS) that started its evangelical work in 1806 with the arrival of Ringle Taube at Mylady, had already made its presence felt with its involvement in the socio-economic, spiritual and educational life of the marginalized, illiterate, neglected people of the erstwhile South Travancore, victims of superstition and epidemics like malaria and cholera.
ARRIVAL OF MR.JOSHUA
In 1892, Mr. Joshua Knowles, a Missionary, represented the LMS in this area that included Karakonam. He worked in Parassala from 1888 to 1899 and in Kollam for a short period. The erstwhile South Travancore included the present Kanyakumari,Trivandrum and Kollam revenue districts. In 1892, Mr.Asaf, a native evangelist started a small congregation at Karakonam with the permission of the missionary. Though slavery was abolished by law, the poor people at Karakonam remained oppressed as slaves under the supremacy of the upper caste. The wages these unfortunate slaves received was just some gruel for all the hard work they did for their masters. For these downtrodden people, embracing Christianity meant emancipation from the slavery and the bonded labour to which they were subjected.
THE IDEA FOR A MEDICAL MISSION
The very idea of starting a Medical Mission was that of Rev. Charles Mead, the second Missionary of the LMS to come toSouth Travancore. Charles Mead who arrived in 1817 served the Mission of South Travancore for twenty years was able to convince the authorities of the LMS the necessity for the services of more missionaries and the need for opening more centers for medical aid in South Travancore.
The LMS Home Board appointed Dr. Archibald Ramsay as a Medical Missionary to South Travancore. Dr. Ramsay, along with a few other newly appointed missionaries arrived at Kollam on March 31, 1838.
In April 1838, Dr. Archibald Ramsay reached Neyyoor and established a hospital. (Today, Neyyoor is in the Kanyakumari Revenue District and under the Kanyakumari Diocese of the CSI.) This marked the modest beginning of a magnificent project which later on came to be called the South Kerala Medical Mission. Dr. Ramsay was thoughtful enough to begin a medical training attached to a seminary at Nagercoil to train the natives in administering medical aid to the patients who came seeking medical aid from the Missionary doctor. But Dr. Ramsay returned toEngland leaving nobody to look after the Medical Mission. Naturally the mission ceased to function.
In 1852 Dr.C.C.Leich came to Neyyoor and resumed the work of the Medical Mission and theMissionwas gaining popularity. But unfortunately, he met with a tragic death by drowning in the sea at Muttom on 25th August 1854. There was another break in the working of the Medical Mission.
Dr. John Lowe, took over the Medical Mission at Neyyoor on November 21, 1861. Patients started pouring in and the Neyyoor Mission expanded to meet the increasing need. He introduced ‘Vaccination’ against epidemics a system of treatment unknown till then. Like his predecessor, Dr. Lowe also trained selected natives whom he designated ‘Medical Evangelists’ and were employed to help in treating patients. In 1868 Dr. Lowe had to leave owing to the ill health of his wife. The Medical Mission continued to function with the help of the ‘Medical Evangelists’ till Dr. Thompson, an energetic doctor Missionary Doctor took over in 1873. He had to suffer personal tragedies like the demise of his wife, which he faced with courage and went on with his work. He was responsible for starting several branch hospitals and dispensaries under the Medical Mission. In 1884, he died at Neyyoor.
South Travancore Medical Mission
The Medical Mission grew to such proportions that by 1890, the South Travancore Medical Mission came to be known as the largest of its kind in the whole world.
In 1893, Dr. Arthur Fells, a highly qualified and dedicated physician took over the South Travancore Medical Mission. A great challenge was awaiting Dr. Fells asSouth Travancorewas in the grip of epidemics that broke out consequent to a famine caused by an unprecedented drought that lasted for three years. The famine and the epidemics were so devastating that people died like flies. More than twenty thousand people died from within a radius of 5 kilometers in and around Karakonam during the famine Dr. Fells took the leadership to open a number of dispensaries all overSouth Travancore. One such dispensary was started in 1894 in the vestry of the LMS church at Palukal. This dispensary was later on shifted to Karakonam.
In 1885 Dr. Sargood Fry was appointed at Neyyoor. During his tenure that lasted seven years, big spacious buildings were built for the Hospital at Neyyoor. The Maharaja of Travancore and several rich non-Christians came forward with substantial financial contributions for the construction of the buildings.
Gradually the service of the Medical Mission branched out to the Malayalam-speaking area of Travancore. Several hospitals managed by the South Kerala Medical Mission today were started during this period. They include Karakonam (1894), Kazhakkoottom (1905), Kalayapuram (1928), Attingal (1905), Kundara (1910), Kollam, Kottarakkara, Nedumgolam and Nellikkakuzhy .A hospital for treating the much-dreaded leprosy was started by Dr. Fry. Dr. Fry leftIndiain 1892 following his appointment as the Head of the Medical Mission inEdinburgh.
BIRTH OF THE SOUTH KERALA MEDICAL MISSION
The present South Kerala Medical Mission is the share South Kerala Diocese got from the South Travancore (Neyyoor) Medical Mission when the erstwhile South Travancore Diocese was bifurcated in 1959 intoSouth Kerala and Kanyakumari Diocese.
Mission Hospital – Karakonam
Though theMissionHospitalat Karakonam at its inception was an integral part of the Neyyoor Medical Mission, the hospital was destined to have an independent history.
The Kanyakumari Diocese came under the state of Tamil Nadu and the South Kerala Diocese under the State ofKerala. When the assets of the two dioceses were partitioned, theMissionHospitalat Karakonam was given to the Kanyakumari diocese, though geographically the hospital was within the Southernmost boundary of the South Kerala Diocese. Naturally this status created certain administrative problems. The hospital that was in a poor condition was left without any one to care for. In 1968 January, there was large-scale encroachment into the hospital property, which resulted in civil cases. Though the Court judged in favour of the Diocese, there was no proper machinery to implement the Court verdict or to evacuate the encroachers.
In utter dejection, both the dioceses decided to sell the hospital and adjacent properties and to share proceeds between the dioceses. Once again, there were impediments in selling the land. The Medical Mission at Neyyoor expressed their inability to take over the Karakonam dispensary. In 1971, Diocesan Council of SKD discussed the possibility of the South Kerala Diocese taking over the Karakonam hospital as per the suggestion of Bishop Rev.William Vachalam, but this could not materialize due to sad demise of the Bishop .
However on 12.04.1975 under the leadership of Bishop Rev.I JEsudasan, SKD took the bold and historic decision that we take up the hospital and this was accepted by the Diocesan Council in august 1975.The hospital was formerly inaugurated by Minister Sri.Baby John .
In mean time Dr.T H Somervell ,the Medical Missionary from Englandpassed away on 23rd January 1975.Dr.Somervell was a legendary physician cum surgeon who served the people ofSouth Travancore from 1922 -1954.NeyyorHospital was his base .He lived with the poor literate people of the area – treating them and educating them. Hundreds of surgeries were performed every week .In those days of Cholera and Malaria he won with the community from Neyyor he extended his sevices to other hospitals under LMS and Karakonam hospital and the people around also had the good fortune to benefit from his skills, kindness and devotion to humanity.
It was no wonder that the South Kerala Diocese wanted to express their affection and respect to Dr.Somervell by making a monument in his name. When the karakonam hospital which was a 6 bedded dispensary was taken over by the Diocese, the historical decision to name it after Dr.T H Somervell was taken. The hospital was named onDr.SomervellMemorialHospital.
Growth of the Hospital UPS and downs
Impressed by the gratitude the South Kerala Medical Mission had shown to the great services of Dr. Somervell, Mrs. Somervell used her good offices to persuade the ‘Council for World Mission (CWM – formerly LMS) to grant a financial aid to theSomervellMemorialHospital at Karakonam. The officers of the CWM contacted Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. I. Jesudasan and an amount of Rs. 40,000 was sent to him as an advance for a bigger help. The amount, in those days was quite substantial to the Hospital. The money was used to procure the much needed X-ray unit and some other equipment. A mobile Medical Unit was organized to take the medical aid to the poor in the neighbourhood of the hospital.
The Secretary of the Christian Medical Association of India (CMAI) encouraged the Medical Mission to concentrate on Rural Medical aid projects. Dr. R.N.Yesudas, the Secretary of the SKMM at that time and Mrs. Dr. Santha Yesudas, one of our medical officers prepared a Project for Rural Medical Services and Bishop Jesudasan presented it to a donor agency (ICCA) inNetherlands. The Project found favour with the donor agencies and with the money granted 2 Rural Health Centres were opened at Arayyor and Kottukonam and very useful awareness programmes were organized.
Though the programmes gained popularity the base Hospital at Karakonam did not show signs of growth,and a steady progress could not be achieved as the medical officers appointed in this hospital did not like to work in the rural village where no facilities available. Many Doctors had been posted by the SKMM. Dr.Stanly Johnes, Dr.Rajendran, Dr.Ezhilarasu, Dr.Austin, Dr.Sujatha, Dr.Santhakumari,Dr.Billigraham Prasad,and Dr.Alex. The result was disappointing set backs suffered by the hospital that once had shown promises of growth.
A TURNING POINT
By this time, in 1986, a new team of office bearers took over the reins of the South Kerala Diocese and the Medical Mission. Rev. Dr. J.W.Gladstone (our present Bishop), Vice-Chairman, Dr. S. Devanesan, Secretary of the Diocese, Dr. Samson Nessiah, Director of the SKMM, Dr. Stanley Jones, Secretary of the SKMM, and Mr. Johnson, Treasurer. The year turned out to be a turning point in the history of the Hospital. On the 16th of October, 1986, Bishop Rt.Rev.Dr. I.Jesudasan appointed Dr. Bennet Abraham as one of the Medical Officers of the Hospital. Dr. Mrs.Jameela Bennet was appointed on 20th April 1988. It has to be acknowledged that the convergence of this team marked a decisive turning point in the history of Dr. Somervell Memorial CSI Mission Hospital. The team had the spirit and the will to proceed with the restoration of the hospital against all odds. Their concerted efforts started yielding encouraging results. During 1986 – 90, for the first time, the Hospital was able to procure equipments worth Rupees Ten Lakhs.
Adversities pursued the Hospital. In 1990 Dr. Bennet Abraham and Dr. Jameela proceeded toVellorefor their Post Graduate studies causing a dullness in the progress of the Hospital. They returned on 18th April 1994 after their P.G. studies. Under the strong pressure of the general public of Karakonam, these two postgraduate doctors were appointed at Karakonam. The sacrificial services of these two doctors using the scanty facilities available, took the hospital gradually to popular for the poor sick people of this remote village where today, aMedicalCollegehas been established.
As the number of patients increased more and more doctors were appointed. Dr. S.Baburaj the present Medical Superintendent and a very famous pediatrician, and Dr. Punithan, the cheerful and skilled surgeons were there to work with the same spirit along with Dr. Bennet.
There are several incidents to illustrate the selfless, dedicated and united services rendered by the doctors and other members of the staff utilizing the meager facilities, inadequate supply of medicines and nominal salaries.
SUBSTANTIAL HELP FROM UNEXPECTED SOURCES
The dedicated team of office bearers who did not have any interest other than the development and growth of the Karakonam hospital, kept their eyes and ears open to find out and identify possible sources of help, big or small.
The major source of help was the Medical Mission Team attached to the Methodist Church of Albany based in South West Georgia (USA). The team used to visit Neyyoor from 1984 onwards. During their visits they used to stay at Neyyoor for a few days giving free treatment to patients and offered monetary assistance for the development of the hospital.
Dr. I.Azariah(late), a Professor of History and the youngest brother of our Bishop Rt.Rev. Dr. I.Jesudasan, happened to establish friendship with this team as Dr.Azariah was staying inAlbany. Dr.Azariah was instrumental to introduce Karakonam to the Albany Medical Mission team. A few of the members of the team visited Karakonam during their next visit. They felt the need for continued help for Karakonam and the Albany Team shifted their field of service to Karakonam during their subsequent visits. Dr. I. Azariah played a decisive role in impressing upon them the need for their help. Dr. Bennet Abraham with his unusual capability in taking initiative for new projects succeeded in impressing upon the Albany Team the need for greater help as it was a very needy area. The relationship with the Albany Team got stronger year after year and they contributed substantially for the growth of the hospital. It was with their help several buildings were either constructed or we could begin construction.Numerous instruments and equipments were donated by them. To borrow a meaningful comment of our Bishop Rt.Rev.Dr.Gladstone, “It was theAlbanyteam that sowed the seeds for aMedicalCollegeat Karakonam.”Several other agencies extended their magnanimity to the Hospital. Christoffer Blinden Mission (CBM) a German Organization involved in World wide services to remove blindness started associating with our hospital fro 1995 and is still continuing .
They extended financial and technical help to us .They helped in establishing awareness and identifying patients through field supervisors, camps and setting up of operation theatres and ward, training of personnel and purchase of equipment for the departments not only of ophthalmology but also of ENT Ortho, Psychiatry departments.
Our other donors are Simavi aNetherlandsleased organization who supplied us with funds, an ambulance generator. HelpageIndia, Synod of Church of South India UCC global Ministry Chicago malayalam congregation Dr.Livingstone Rasalam ofUSAalso played important role on the development of the hospital.