Indian Hospital Revisited

Revisiting Indian Hospital

We return to the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, as it continues its mission of providing affordable healthcare for all.

Last updated: 09 Mar 2014 11:15
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Director of Indian Hospital Revisited, Gautam Singh, on location in the village of Yaradona, in south India [Al Jazeera]

At Al Jazeera, we never leave a story.

Two years ago, our unique observational documentary series, Indian Hospital, sought to shine a light on Indian society as it is rarely seen.

Through six one-hour programmes, we brought you the story of a unique experiment in Indian healthcare at the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital Complex in Bangalore - a hospital that aims to treat anybody who walks through its doors, whether rich or poor; where making a profit goes hand in hand with providing free medical care.

The series illuminated the complexities and dilemmas of modern India through the extraordinarily varied lives of the patients and medical staff working at Narayana. And during our time there, we met incredible people – patients who had traveled from far corners in search of hope and healing, and doctors who would stop at nothing to help them.

In the years that have passed since, what has happened to the hospital and its benevolent vision; and what has become of its staff like Dr Rolson, the surgeon who fixes peoples’ faces, and Dr Shetty, the benevolent heart surgeon who started the hospital? And how have the lives of the patients changed? Patients like young Prabhu whose body was giving in to a degenerative nerve disease; Rajeshwari, whose lower jaw was rebuilt; and baby Hatesham, who had had a liver transplant?

Al Jazeera's Gautam Singh returns to India to follow up on these stories in two, new interactive episodes.

Filmmaker's view

By Gautam Singh

"I had no option but to continue our journey with the people we had met back in 2011"

India, with its 1.2 billion people, is astoundingly diverse in virtually every aspect of social life – ethnic, linguistic, regional, economic, religious, class and caste.

As a filmmaker, I am fascinated by my country’s ability to find harmony in so much diversity.

I wanted to tell the story of an India that belongs to each and every one of those 1.2 billion. And what better place to do that than a hospital that treats people from every section of society? A place where illness is an equaliser.

We chose Narayana Health because it is one of those Indian stories that brings the country’s differences together in one place. It is a microcosm and, for me, the hospital became not only my film set, but also a character in itself.

In 2011, we spent four months at Narayana, shooting 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and ended up producing six films – our original Indian Hospital series. We met a variety of characters from all walks of life, who told us their incredible stories.

In late 2013, we decided to revisit those characters.

But why revisit a story? The simple answer is because we are Al Jazeera and we never leave a story behind. Here, we follow it for as long as it exists, or for as long as we exist.

After finishing the first series, I had kept in regular touch with our characters. Over two years, many of their stories took the most unexpected turns. I waited until I felt our original series began to feel like a half-told story. And then I had no option but to continue our journey with the people we had met back in 2011.

India spends less than one percent of its GDP on healthcare. Public healthcare is almost non-existent. Indian households shoulder about 80 percent of the country’s total healthcare burden from their own pockets. This is astonishing, because seven out of 10 Indians live on less than $2 per day. For these people, Narayana offers hope.

I was born and raised in one of India’s most remote villages. People in my village have died of completely curable illnesses, because medical help was hard to reach or afford.

My own grandfather and uncle passed away, on their way to the nearest hospital, which was 50km away. These experiences make Indian Hospital an incredible journey for me.

When I saw people with threadbare clothing, who could not afford food or a home, coming to Narayana and not being treated as outcasts, it gave me hope; especially since right beside them, shoulder-to-shoulder, were some of India’s richest.

Watch Indian Hospital Revisited here.

Indian Hospital Revisited, a special two-part interactive addition to our original series, can be seen on March 13 and March 20, 2014, at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2000; Friday: 1200; Saturday: 0100; Sunday: 0600; Monday: 2000; Tuesday: 1200; Wednesday: 0100

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