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Homeopathy & Modern Medical Techniques

The Best of Both Worlds

by Julian Jonas, CCH, LicAc

The little girl lay in a coma on her back with a feeding tube up her nose. No gown, no blanket. Just a 3 year old in a simple shift, legs askew in what looked more like a crib than a hospital bed.

Her parents had brought her in when the fever had gotten out of control. Too poor and far away to spare the time and money for medical attention for a simple fever, they belatedly sought out help when the child began to convulse and lapse into unconsciousness.

Now, she was in a ward at the Dr. M. L. Dhawale Memorial Homeopathic Institute, a 50 bed hospital in the rural township of Palghar in the Indian state of Maharastra,130 kilometers north of Mumbai and 10 kilometers inland from the Arabian Sea.

That morning I was following Dr. Navin Pawaskar, a senior physician at the hospital, on his rounds. We came up to the bed while Dr. Reetha Krishnan, the head of pediatrics, was attending to the girl. It was a classic case of meningitis. What starts as a bacterial or viral infection gives rise to a fever and headache that, when untreated, escalates to convulsions, delirium, coma and possible death.

As a patient here, the child was benefiting from the best of two worlds: brain imagining and other modern diagnostic procedures coupled with around the clock homeopathic care. Her treatment was not antibiotics or steroids, but consisted of doses of a single homeopathic medicine.

A brain scan had revealed swelling in the skull that had pushed the girl’s brain off to one side. But she was responding well to her remedy. Now, the fever had been controlled and the prognosis was hopeful that the child would recover. On rounds the next day, I saw that the girl had improved further. She was responding to touch and other stimulation. What remained in question was the extent of damage the brain had sustained and how fully she would regain her mental capacities.

While Palghar itself is located on the train line and has a small commercial center as well as a number of schools and conventional medical facilities, it takes but a short drive into the surrounding countryside, to discover the India of some 700 million rural, mostly poor.

The hospital was created to benefit just this kind of patient: low income rural people with little access to medical services. It serves an underclass of 200,000 workers, farmers, landless laborers and 50,000 tribal peoples in the surrounding area.

Although only built in 2000 - on government donated land that, of all places, is next to a municipal dump, its origins stretch back to the 1930’s when a small homeopathic study group was formed by a physician named L.D. Dhawale who had become enamored with both the efficacy and cost efficiency of homeopathic treatment.

A generation later, his son expanded on the father’s endeavors by forming the Institute of Clinical Research (ICR) to promote clinical research in homeopathy, as well as standardization of homeopathic education and methodology. The Dr. M.L. Dhawale Memorial Trust was established in the son’s name to further the work of the ICR. Today, there are 6 hospitals, numerous rural clinics and mobile vans in both rural and urban slum areas all run under the auspices of the ICR.

The vision of the Dhawales and those who continue their work at the ICR and the Trust, goes beyond practice of homeopathy. They are imbued with the ideal of service to those in need. This is codified in its motto: “Where no doctor reaches, we will reach. Where patients cannot afford costly services, we will try to provide at minimum costs”. The ICR has established medical facilities in both urban and rural areas, as well as mobile clinics that travel in slums and to the remotest villages.

The homeopathic care is integrated with modern diagnostic tools such as blood tests, ultrasound and X-ray imaging. Surgery to repair broken bones, for emergency C-sections or for the removal of tumors that do not respond to homeopathic treatment is also performed.

The Palghar hospital has departments of pediatrics, neonatal care, psychiatry, rheumatology, HIV & AIDS, diabetes, respiratory illness, dermatology, surgery, gynecology and obstetrics, orthopedics, physiotherapy, ophthalmology and dentistry as well as a pathology lab. There is also a department of physiotherapy and an emergency room.

Plans are in the works to add a department of urology and to develop the capacity to perform laproscopic and plastic surgery. There also is an intensive 3 year residency program for homeopathic college graduates.

A very important aspect of the services provided by the hospital is the outreach work in remote areas. One afternoon, I accompanied Dr. Pawaskar and a gynecologist on an excursion to a 10-bed ‘Cottage Hospital’ that specialized in maternal and pediatric care.

At this same facility, the ICR had established health education and micro-financing programs, small insurance and craft cooperatives as well.

This was in recognition of the fact that healthcare cannot be divorced from social and economic wellbeing of the population.

The establishment of the hospital was not easy. Even though homeopathy in India is an officially sanctioned and supported medical system throughout the nation, it still accounts for only 3% of the healthcare budget. The hospital was built with private funds in the face of opposition from the local conventional medical establishment.

Twenty years earlier, ICR homeopaths had established a small clinic run on a shoestring budget providing low cost medical care for tribal peoples. Despite the fact that people were desperate for medical attention and were offered treatment at minimal cost, a lack of familiarity with homeopathy fueled skepticism. Expecting bottles of pills or injections, people would often throw away their packets of homeopathic remedies as they left the clinic.

Slowly, though, through perseverance, education and especially by the positive treatment results, attitudes began to change. As appreciation of homeopathy grew, one clinic grew into six. The donation of a mobile van – a homeopathic dispensary on wheels, made it possible to reach more people deep in the countryside.

But it took an epidemic of malaria for homeopathy to gain true acceptance. Reaching people in their homes and fields, doctors were able to successfully treat entire villages. From this grew a new respect for their tiny little sugar pills.

While the Dr. M. L. Dahwale Memorial Homeopathic Institute is both figuratively and literally a world away, it teaches us invaluable lessons about the possibilities of providing curative, cost effective healthcare and awakens a vision of the true possibilities of homeopathic medicine.

Julian Jonas, CCH, Lic Ac practices and teaches homeopathy in Brattleboro, Vermont. He can be reached at jjjonas@sover.net or via his website www.centerforhomeopathy.com
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