As well as looking after thousands of people affected by leprosy each year, Lalgadh Leprosy Hospital and Services Centre (LLHSC) also helps many more thousands of people with general medical conditions. Around 5,000 people from the local community come each year for help with all kinds of difficulty, from the usual coughs and colds, fractures and burns, to cholera and snakebite, childbirth and malaria, road traffic accidents and much more. On top of that, another 85,000 come each year to get various skin conditions checked out, sometimes afraid that they may have leprosy, but often just because we are good with skin problems at Lalgadh.
Space in the wards has grown in recent years, with the addition of about 40 beds, bringing the bed capacity up to more than 90. The 60 or so beds dedicated to leprosy are normally pretty full throughout the year keeping our staff busy. We are very grateful to the American Schools and Hospitals Assistance programme, ALM, the BUILD Organization, TLM England and Wales, and friends of Dr Graeme and Meena Clugston (based at LLHSC) for the extra ward space that has been built to allow more people with leprosy and more general cases to be accommodated. We have also built a new children’s ward which was completed in mid-2017.
LLSC has earned a good reputation as a centre where people can get real help, and where staff are not just interested in taking patient’s money, but aim to deliver a good and compassionate service. The phrase in the region is “go and get some Lalgadh medicine” and many people even come from India for help. Lalgadh’s popularity with skin cases also means that a significant number of these can prove to be cases of leprosy. We have had 20 new cases of leprosy in one day!
On a busy day, these large numbers mean that the OPD staff may have to examine 600-plus patients in one day! This puts a considerable strain on services and can be very tough in the hot season where patient and staff tempers can get a little frayed, but by and large people wait their turn patiently and staff do their best to get through the load without turning people away. A challenge to NLT is to know how to handle so many general cases without impacting negatively on the leprosy services which are our primary concern. Our resources are limited and are provided for Leprosy work and so the general work has to be self-funding. This means that we have to charge for general services, but these charges are kept as low as possible. During 2016 and 2017 the out-patient services were expanded to make it easier to serve the large numbers who come for help, and the new facilities have made a great difference to both the patients and the staff.
COVID-19 had a significant impact on patient numbers during 2020, with about 55,000 patient visits for the year, but in 2021 numbers picked up again with 76,000 visits, as travel became easier.