Nurturing health and education

Print edition : January 30, 2004

Industrial groups have set up more than 65 trusts, which run hospitals and educational institutions that provide affordable healthcare and learning opportunities.

PHILANTHROPHY is a part of Coimbatore's corporate culture. The city is home to more than 65 trusts set up by industrial groups. Although started as tax shelters, these trusts are now self-sustaining and have set up a number of educational institutions and hospitals.

Microsurgery in progress at the Ganga Hospital.-

G.K. Sundaram of Lakshmi Mills says: "We have a tradition rooted in philanthrophy. We all grew up learning that we had to do something for society."

This spirit of Coimbatore flows from the conviction of P.S. Govindaswamy Naidu, a pioneering industrialist and philanthropist, that his prosperity should be shared with others. PSG's fortunes were divided into five equal parts - four went to his sons and the fifth to a trust named after him. Formed with a corpus of Rs.2 lakhs, the PSG Trust brought to Coimbatore the concept of higher learning, which has since grown from strength to strength.

The PSG institutions, which cover the entire gamut of learning - arts, science, technology, medicine, management and the performing arts - provided the rockbed of Coimbatore's industrial development. Most of the industrialists are connected with the institutions in one way or the other.

The most popular course is the PSG College of Technology's sandwich course, which combines classroom education with practical training in an industrial unit. Says R. Krishnamurthy, former president of the Coimbatore District Small Industries Association: "This rapport was beneficial in two ways. The students, by working in the industries, got inspired to start industrial units, and the industry benefited by the projects the students did for them."

The PSG College of Arts and Science, set up in 1947, offers 29 under-graduate and 21 post-graduate courses with 16 of its departments offering M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes. In 1999, it was given five-star status by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). It has also got the ISO 2000 certification. The first college to get autonomous status, in 1978, its experiments with syllabi and courses paid off. It was the first college to make compulsory a certificate course for undergraduate students. It follows a choice-based credit system and a cafeteria system under which 80 per cent is the main course, 10 per cent inter-disciplinary study, 5 per cent for personality development and 5 per cent extra departmental. According to the Principal, Dr. B. Sampath Kumar, the institution provides students facilities to earn by doing projects for industries on environment, food preservation and so on.

The Dr. G.R. Damodaran College of Science, set up in 1988 by the GRD Trust, focusses, among other things, on emerging areas and experimental learning to equip students with skills to handle real-world problems and to face challenges in a rapidly-changing world. The NAAC has given the college a five-star rating. According to its Chairman and Correspondent, Dr. D. Padmanabhan, the college caters to the needs of the present system by sending out students on projects in embassies and to industrial support organisations such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Indian Export Organisations.

The college has tied up with over 10 business process outsourcing (BPO) companies in Bangalore to train students. The college also trains students in American accent, as it would be useful in medical transcription and in employment at call centres. It is the only college operating an FM radio station, which broadcasts 13 hours a day on educational issues. The GRG Trust, set up by G.R. Govindarajulu, is supported by the Pioneer group of companies. Started with the objective of furthering women's education, the Trust's 13 institutions have over 13,000 students.

The PSGR Krishnammal College is run strictly on charity. On entering the college, one is greeted by a board that says: "No donation will be accepted". Another trust devoted exclusively to women's development is the Avinasilingam Education Trust. Started by Dr. T.S. Avinasilingam, freedom fighter and Education Minister in the Madras Presidency, in 1952, it has grown into a deemed university, offering courses from pre-school to Ph.D. level.

Catering to the changing needs of industries as they gear up to face international competition are the management schools. The PSG Institute of Management helps companies looking to equip themselves to face international competition by assigning to a faculty member and a group of students the job of working out an administrative schedule for each company. It also helps them outsource human resource, impart soft-skills such as inter-personal communication, and in cost management. In order to give students some exposure to the ground realities and also try out basic management concepts, the institute has initiated a project to assist self-help groups in managing their finances and marketing their products.

The Jansons School of Management was founded by T.S. Natarajan three years ago as a residential business school. According to its director, Prof. S. Ganesan, with standards on a par with international institutions, the school has an excellent rapport with industries. Affiliated to Bharathiyar University, the institute is focussed on the changing needs of Coimbatore's industries with an entrepreneurship growth cell, an executive development centre, an industry interaction cell, a language laboratory, a personality development centre and a management research centre. It also offers courses on emerging markets and family business and on competing in the global economy, specifically designed for the wards of industrialists in Coimbatore.

WHILE the PSG family pioneered education, the Lakshmi group championed the cause of medicine and healthcare. Set up in 1952, the G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Charity Trust for education and medical relief is going strong, working on a no-profit basis. It is one of the five centres in the country for the detection of, and education on, cancer, and its doctors go to rural areas on detection drives. Concentrating on preventive medicine, the hospital has a rural centre at Veerapandi, on the outskirts of Coimbatore, with "total family" as the basic concept. Its unique feature is the neo-natal ward, one of its kind in the south, to which just-borns with problems are rushed from even faraway places.

Another trust hospital with state-of-the-art facilities is the K.G. Hospital, started in 1974 by Dr. K. Bhakthavatsalam. Over 10 per cent of the beds are for free treatment/patients. Bhakthavatsalam, a surgeon, is all for preventive medicine. His pet project is performing free cataract operations. Under this project, a doctor goes with a team to remote areas, identifies people with cataract, brings them to the hospital, performs the operation (including the lens implant), and provides them with medicines. All for free.

The Kovai Medical Centre and Hospital (KMCH) is a corporate multi-speciality hospital that cross-subsidises patient cost in order to serve the poor. It specialises in asthma, interventional cardiology, de-addiction, diabetes, andrology and orthopaedic rehabilitation. With state-of-the-art technology and proficient specialists, KMCH performs such specialised procedures as stenting, fallopian tube recanalisation, chemoembolisation and laparoscopic and thoracoscopic surgical procedures.

KMCH's Department of Physical Medicine consists of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and orthopaedics (artificial limb division); it has a department for artificial limb manufacture. Its comprehensive rehabilitation schemes are affordable and among the best in southern India. The department specialises in pain management for patients with spinal chord injury, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Coimbatore is also well-known for its super-speciality hospitals - Vikram for ENT; Ganga for trauma, orthopaedic and micro-vascular surgery; Gem for laparoscopy, Mesonic for paediatrics, Rao for assisted reproduction and endoscopy; and Eye Foundation and Sankara Eye Clinic for ophthalmology - which offer world-class treatment at affordable rates. A unique feature of these super-speciality hospitals is that the promoter family is wholly involved, either medically or administratively, making it that much easier to pursue the philosophy of providing "the best care for all" irrespective of the economic stratum.

Set up in 1978 with 17 beds by Drs. J.G. Shanmuganathan and Kanakavalli Shanmuganathan, Ganga Hospital is today a 150-bed hospital with one of the world's best facilities for trauma-induced reconstruction of open injuries of limbs with bone and soft tissue defects, primary bone grafting in open injuries, interlocking nails (treatment of long bone fractures of limbs), spine surgery (microdiscectomy, removal of tumours, complex spinal fixations, tuberculosis, paediatric spine, deformities due to scoliosis and kyphosis, and so on), spinal trauma, total joint replacement and global reconstruction of open injuries.

According to Dr. S. Rajasekaran, a specialist in spine surgery, trauma and orthopaedic research, the Ganga Hospital's strength is its focus on academics, which keeps doctors updated on the latest developments. Basic research done in the hospital relates to, among others, spinal tuberculosis, removal of primary vertebral tumour and solute transport of lumbar discs. The National Medical Board has recognised the hospital as the only super-speciality training centre in spine injury. Any physical deformity in children is treated free.

Vikram Hospital, set up in 1972 by Dr. P.G. Visvanathan to treat otological, nasal, laryngeal, head and neck disorders, has state-of-the-art facilities and provides world-class treatment options. According to Dr. Aruna Visvanathan, it is the first hospital in the country to acquire the KTP 532 laser for bloodless and scarless keyhole surgery. The hospital, which is conducting research to develop an indigenous implant for the totally deaf, has the facility to restore hearing for most kinds of deafness.The hospital does single-stage surgery for discharge deafness, sinus and breathing problems; plastic surgery of thye nose; treatment for snoring caused by oxygen deficiency; and phono-surgery to correct problems in the voice.

The Vikram Hospital set up the Ear Research Institute, the first oral school in south India, to educate both parents and children. As part of this programme, screening camps are conducted regularly around Coimbatore and treatment is provided. Intensive speech rehabilitation is done for children with deafness, and they are integrated into mainstream schools.

Coimbatore also offers high-quality treatment in traditional medicine. The Coimbatore Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (AVP) was founded in 1943 and the Arya Vaidya Chikitsalayam in 1950 by the late P.V. Rama Variar. The 120-bed hospital is among the country's premier institutions in ayurveda treatment. Specialising in Kerala oil therapies such as pizhichil and dhara, and classical Panchakarma treatments, the hospital attracts patients from all over the world.

According to AVP managing director P.R. Krishnakumar, the hospital has two production centres in Kerala manufacturing 420 formulations and a procurement centre to collect, store and supply over 600 herbs. With a nationwide network to market its medicines, the AVP is the first ayurvedic company in south India to get the government's GMP certification for production standards under the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. It also runs a teaching institution, affiliated to the M.G.R. Medical University, offering a degree in Ayurveda. According to Krishnakumar, the hospital offers treatment in 22 specialities and many of its patients are those who have been given up by other systems of medicine.

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