Choitram Memorial Hospital Tweet Sparks Debate with Indian Vice President.

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

On Monday 21st October 2019, Salone Fact-Checker came upon a tweet screenshot by the Vice President of India, Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu, which was shared by popular journalist of BBC Media Action, Arnold Felix Elba on his Facebook page, in which the Indian Vice President tweeted commendation for the charitable work rendered by the Choitram memorial hospital in Freetown.

The Indian Vice president’s tweet sparked a tumult in the Sierra Leone social media community, with many, including journalists and activists, posting rebuttals that the hospital on the contrary charged high treatment fees. 

In an attempt to set the record straight, a representative of the Choitram Foundation in Sierra Leone, Harish Agnani, told journalists that the hospital does charitable work from time to time like organizing free treatment camps for the poor and needy.

Harish Agnani made this statement on Wednesday 23rd October during a press conference called to set the record straight over somewhat controversial tweet by the Indian Vice President who recently visited the country, in which he referred to the Choitram Memorial Hospital as

“Charitable Hospital” stating: ‘I appreciate the commendable work being rendered by this charitable hospital in the field of healthcare & in providing free medical treatment facilities to the poor and needy.’

Harish Agnani said while many view charity as 100% free, charity can even be paying partial fees where one cannot meet the cost of treatment. He also said the government of Sierra Leone press release which also referred to the hospital as charitable was misleading.

“And that was what the Indian Vice President tweeted as Choitram Charity Hospital. Fine, but still, If I am subsidizing your bill for giving free treatment to people here, we are still doing a charity,’’ he said.

He stressed the fact that they were not 100% charity or free for all service, otherwise they would see countless patients sitting all over the hospital grounds.

He emphasized the need not to discriminate between their patients who pay their own bills and those the hospital that treats on charitable basis.

“They sleep in the same air conditioned room with the paying patients; the only difference is that we don’t give private rooms to non-paying patient because private rooms are the only way we can attain funds to run this hospital.” 

Adding “Let me be very clear that there is no funding coming from the Indian government to the hospital. If there was funding coming from the Indian government as the media is claiming, they would have written Indian Charity outside. They would have never written Choitram Memorial Hospital” said Agnani.

Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Dr. Gowrinath M. George said they were working on knee replacement camp which will be organized in the months of January and February which will be free.

“The other camp which is coming up is the endoscopy and colonoscopy screening for which a workshop is going to be held from 14th November to 23rd November by Dr. Neilender and his team. The other camp we will be organizing a diabetes screening camp on 7th to the 9th November and all these screenings and whatever the treatment done during the period of the screening is free. So, these are the things shortly which are coming up” he explained.

Meanwhile, an official in the Ministry of Information and communications who refused to be quoted saying the hospital is a charitable hospital and that they have been receiving waiver fees from the government adding that they did not make a mistake by mentioning them as charity.

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