“Doctors should serve the poor with the spirit of sacrifice. There is no greater service than this … Medicine should not be commercialized.”

From the very beginning Baba affirmed that health is a right of every individual, and so must be provided free of cost to all, irrespective of caste or religious belief. And so it was that, on 4th October 1956, Sai Baba inaugurated a General Hospital a short distance from His ashram. It was the very first medical care facility for the local villagers in the entire region.

A larger hospital was inaugurated on 29th February 1984, it has 80 beds and three operating theatres, and treats more than 1,000 patients daily, including 3-4 surgeries.

On 23rd November 1990, Baba announced that within a year there would be a highly advanced tertiary care hospital in Puttaparthi, which would provide free medical treatment to all. This declaration was greeted by many in the audience with surprise and awe, and some incredulity. Yet, on 22nd November 1991, the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, a super-specialty hospital, was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Sri P.V. Narasimha Rao.

On 19th January 2001, another advanced tertiary care hospital was opened in Whitefield, Bangalore. The inauguration was attended by the Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. On that occasion, Baba said the hospital was dedicated to the welfare of the poor, and he reminded the staff attending to work for the poor, to alleviate their suffering and set an ideal to the nation. To the doctors, He said: “Serve the poor with love. That alone can redeem you. Service to the poor is service to God. Sacrifice your life for the cause of the poor.”

Since their inception to 2011, the two super-specialty hospitals have treated 2.9 million patients, and conducted 230,000 surgeries. Such is the enormity of the work done.

In April 2006, the Sri Sathya Sai Mobile Hospital was started to take healthcare to the rural villages, where healthcare is inadequate and awareness of basic principles of health and hygiene is lacking. A different village is visited every day for twelve days each month. Doctors offer diagnostic services and even perform minor surgeries and dental procedures.

Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, once wrote: “I have been to several hospitals of repute in various parts of the world, but I have not seen anywhere so magnificent a medical institution as Sri Bhagawan Baba’s Institute. Another instance of his divine gift to our people.”

In His discourses, Baba has emphasized that medicine is a profession that requires a spirit of selfless service and personalised attention to every patient as a unique individual. Baba rejects economic models of health care delivery, and this is evident in the services provided and in the doctors and trainees at all His hospitals. He said this approach benefits the patients, but it is primarily beneficial to the physician and other caregivers.

Dr. Alan H. Gradman MD, an American cardiologist, who regularly volunteered at the super specialty hospital in Puttaparthi, wrote of his experience there: “The high purpose of medicine seems restored in a world where the main topic of conversation is patient welfare, rather than costs, budgets, bonuses and vacations. It is possible to remember why one chose to become a doctor in the first place.”

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