Treating patients, not tourists, Kerala ayurveda centre stands apart

The here is into "treatment" and not into "entertainment" of those who arrive at the hospitals run by the centre, said P.M. Varier, chief superintendent of the famed Kottakkal Hospital it runs. It was founded by Vaidyaratnam P.S. Varier.
"We are not into providing ayurveda packages as offered by various resorts in the state. We treat a patient depending on the physical and mental condition. We offer time-tested treatment protocols using our own medicines," said Varier, who is also the additional chief physician at the hospital.

These treatments using the traditional Indian medical system ayurveda are specially effective for those suffering from paralysis, rheumatism, arthritis, spondylosis, other psychosomatic diseases as well as degenerative and other systemic diseases, say the many patients who throng the hospitals.

The average treatment takes 21-28 days and costs around Rs.45,000, a pittance compared to what the tourists pay at other places.

"To get admitted as an in-patient, the patient has to come to our out-patient department first and they are given a time to come back. Today the waiting period for undergoing our in-patient treatment is four months under normal circumstances," Varier said.

Arya Vaidya Sala now has four hospitals -- a 300-bed hospital and a 120-bed hospital at its headquarters here, a 45-bed one in New Delhi and one recently opened in Kochi. Located in Malappuram district, Kottakkal is 165 km from Kochi.
Apart from the hospital, the centre has 22 branches which offer out-patient treatment and 1,200 dealers that sell the 530 medicines it manufactures in two factories in the state. In Mysore, a third factory is having its trial run.
The organisation employs 2,200 people full time in the hospitals and in its 220-acre farm in Palakkad district where its grows several medicinal herbs, besides having a 40-acre gooseberry farm.

K. Muraleedharan, superintendent of the main hospital here, said the medicines include raisins from Afghanistan, 2.5 kg of gold every month, five kg of saffron from Kashmir every month and resin from forests in Gujarat.
"We use more than 4,000 tonnes of raw material a year to produce 530 formulations for the market. It includes 7,000 kg of medicinal herbs and 3,000 litres of milk every day," Muraleedharan said.

Fourteen tonnes of cardamom, 180 tonnes of ghee, 290 tonnes of honey and 750 tonnes jaggery also go into the medicines every year.
"People from 41 countries have undergone treatment here and we are growing around 10 to 15 percent every year. Last fiscal we had a turnover of Rs.160 crore. Our social commitment is such that we plough back 45 percent of our revenues into the hospital which provides free treatment. Ten percent is given to our ayurveda college," said chief legal manager K. Venugopalan.

In 2003, Arya Vaidya Sala set up the Centre for Medicinal Plants and Research (CMPR), which carries out various extension activities with village councils, where people are trained to cultivate medicinal herbs.
"This would supplement the 40 families which have been supplying us medicinal plants for several decades now. The new people are being encouraged mainly for conservation and propagation because quite a few valuable herbs are on the verge of extinction. We conduct classes and seedlings free of cost are given to them. We remunerate them when they come back with the herbs," said Reghu, a scientist with CMPR.

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