Fr Richard D’Souza,
Director of Canara Communication Centre, Shanthi Kiran, Bajjodi
The post-centenary silver jubilee of St Joseph Leprosy Hospital and golden jubilee of Rehabilitation Unit, both run by Father Muller Charitable Institutions, will be celebrated on Saturday April 11 at the Academy hall of the Institution.
This was announced at a press meet here on Thursday April 9, by Fr Richard Coelho, administrator, FMMCH, Fr Rudolph Ravi D’Sa, administrator, FMMC, Sr Aileen Mathias, CNO, FMMCH, Dr Ramesh Bhat, HOD, department of dermatology/leprosy and Dr Nandakishore, department of dermatology.
The jubilee celebration will commence with the solemn Eucharistic celebration at 8 am at St Joseph Chapel in Father Muller campus, in which bishop Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza will be the main celebrant.
The formal ceremony will be held at the Academy hall at 5.30 pm. Minister for health and family welfare U T Khadar will be the chief guest, while joint director, state leprosy officer Vimala Patel, superior general of Helpers of Mount Rosary Sr Prescilla D’Mello, provincial superior of Karnataka Jesuits Fr Stany D’Souza, and provincial superior of Sisters of Charity, Mangaluru province Dr Sr Matilda Monteiro will be the guests of honour. Bishop Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza will preside.
Father Muller Charitable Institutions was started by Fr Augustus Muller in 1880 as a small dispensary which slowly developed into a hospital. That was the time when leprosy was considered as a dreaded disease for want of scientific treatment, fear of deformities and social stigma. Fr Augustus Muller started a home for such unfortunate patients in the year 1890. This was an asylum for leprosy patients in Jeppu and was named as “St Joseph Asylum”. Here the patients were helped to live as best as they could and pass on to a better world when God called them. The asylum was shifted to Kankanady, to a new building with eleven rooms, six for men and five for women. This was in 1892 and the hospital was named “St Joseph Leprosy Hospital”.
The hospital gradually expanded to meet the demand and in the year 1909 could accommodate fifty in-patients. Fr Muller himself was taking care of these patients and later on Sisters of Charity came from Italy continued the good work, the prominent among them being Sr Matilda, Sr Candida, Sr Leonilde and Sr Josephine. Fr Muller left for his heavenly abode on 1st Nov 1910 and was interred in St Joseph’s Chapel which formed the centre of the male and female wards.
It was only in 1926 that the Leprosy hospital got its first full time trained doctor. That was Dr Aloysius Felix Coelho who took charge after completing his training at the school of Tropical Medicine, Calcutta. He continued to serve the hospital for 35 years.
The arrival of Swiss doctors in 1962 brought in a sea of change in the quality of care and treatment for this disease. These doctors belonged to a committed agency, Swiss Emmaus which was dedicated to the cause of leprosy. Dr C Heinz, Dr Wintsch, Dr V P Macaden and Dr S E Macaden belonged to this time. They introduced the concept of reconstructive surgery for the deformities in leprosy followed by rehabilitation. Mrs. Heidi Dutt (Zehnder) was the Swiss lady who founded the Rehabilitation Unit in 1965.
St Joseph Leprosy Hospital has contributed substantially to the eradication of leprosy in the Dakshina Kannada district. School surveys were being conducted in all the primary schools of Mangalore city to detect leprosy in its early stages. Outreach programme to cover Moodbidri, Ganjimutt, Kallamundkur, Kinnigoli and Bantwal was arranged in the form of weekly skin clinics. This outreach programme later on was changed to Leprosy Control programme in Ullal area covering 14 villages comprising of more than 1 lakh population, where house to house survey was conducted to detect leprosy cases. The programme was launched in 1986 and an intensive survey for 1 to 2 years in that area showed a prevalence of 24 cases per ten thousand population. This prevalence gradually decreased over a period of 15 to 18 years and was brought to 0.6 per ten thousand population in the year 2002 when this programme was wound up as we attained the elimination point i.e leprosy cases less than one per ten thousand.
The year 1990 was a witness to the centenary celebration of St Joseph Leprosy Hospital. The very next year post graduate course was started with 2 MD and 1 diploma in dermatology, venereology and leprosy under Mangalore University. Presently the hospital has transformed into a full-fledged dermatology department having adequate teaching faculty, nineteen post graduates students, modern amenities including lasers for the treatment of various skin disorders.