About Us
 

Bel-Air Hospital of Indian Red Cross Society
Dalkeith Estate which houses the Bel – Air Hospital, covers an expanse of 44 acres of verdant land. This serenely munificent and generous donation given by Sir Dorabji Tata in 1914 for the Bel – Air Sanatorium project, was a project designed to fight the scourge of tuberculosis in India.

LEGACY OF THE BILLIMORIAS
(Reminiscences of Relative)
Born in Bombay on the 13th May 1882, Rustomji was the youngest of the three sons and a daughter of Bomanji Jamshedji Billimoria. His mother died when he was just two years old but the children were so lovingly reared by their father that they did not feel the absence of a mother in their life.
Bomanji Billimoria was a secretary in the Bombay Dyeing and Manufacturing Company and a man of modest means. A devout Zoroastrian, he took care to instill into his children the moral precepts of their faith and the importance of prayer and respect for elders. Rustomji and his brothers never left the house without touching their father’s feet.

Dr.Rustom B.Billimoria (The Founder)

From 1912 to 1926, the Sanatorium was conducted as private institution, but once having placed it on a sound footing, Dr. Billimoria, to ensure its continuity, transferred the management of this Institution to Board of Trustees. This arrangement worked satisfactorily but a few years before his death Dr. Billimoria transferred the management of the hospital in 1965 to the Indian Red Cross Society and from thereon to date, it has been a Red Cross project.
This arrangement worked smoothly till the nineties, but from 1980 budgetary constraints and receding public health care funding by the State Government, this important source of funding dried up, with the State reneging on its health care obligation. This was a lethal blow to an important public health Institution.


Another relevant feature was that the Sanatorium was always run on totally secular lines with no distinction of caste or creed or religion. Over the years the sanctity of this principle has been preserved and respected. And yet the vast property, the capital cost of its development and the large outlays on restructuring and upgradation and the cash donations needed for its maintenance and continuity have been the handiwork, by and large, of the Zorashtrian Community that has donated crores for the benefit of humanity.

The Golden Jubilee celebrations in May 1962 was a land mark event in the annals of Bel-Air, when the Union Health Minister Dr. Sushila Nayyar in the presence of distinguished gathering, (which included among other, Minister of Housing and Civil Supplies, Shri Homi J. H. Taleyarkhan, and ex-Governor of Maharashtra Sri Prakasa), spoke of the signal contribution made by Dr. Billimoria to society and described him as a “Pioneer of the Anti TB movement in India.” A man of few words, deeply religious and known for his impeccable integrity, Dr. Billimoria’s main contribution was the decisive breakthrough in the treatment of TB which earned him the award, ‘The Padma Bhushan.’ Here, a passing reference to his life partner, his second wife Gulestan Bhadurji might be in order, for she was major influence on his work. She absorbed his dreams and responded to his determination. Rustomjee shunned the limelight and it was Gulestan who presided at all Bel-Air functions and gave the welcome address to Governor. Although both were temperamentally different, they helped and supported one another throughout their lives. Their combined contribution, his on the medical front and hers on the social, served Bel-Air well in resolving several knotty issues.
But as in the case of all institutions, Bel-Air’s fortunes waxed and waned after the sixities. For the first fifteen years (1965 to 1980) Red Cross Management saw Bel-Air develop and grow. The hospital capacity had grown to 250 beds. There was a well equipped laboratory for carrying out bio-chemical and pathological tests and microbiological culture. Recreational facilities and occupational rehabilitation training were also made available to all patients. But in the mid eighties, Bel-Air entered a slow but steady phase of decline. The discovery of second generation Anti-TB drugs and the consequent shift to domiciliary treatment resulted in sharp drop in the occupancy rate. Added to this, there was donor fatigue. The financial constraint, coupled with erratic budgetary support from the Government has its impact on staff appointments and staff efficiency. Appointment of trained medical staff became difficult and maintenance and upgradation of medical care became well high impossible. Unacceptable pricing of drugs made access to treatment difficult. All these factors threatened to wipe Bel-Air off the public health care map.
God has his mysterious ways preserving the memory of pious and noble benefactor like Dr. Billimoria. Just when the Bel-Air management was in search of viable alternative, Father Tomy of the MCBS Congregation accidentally appeared on the scene. He had gone to Panchgani as a tourist and chanced upon seeing Bel-Air. Father Tomy’s interest in Bel-Air was sharpened when he saw the vast estate almost in ruins and the potential for its development. He approached the Red Cross authorities in Bombay with a proposal that his Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (MCBS) would be willing to manage the hospital as a Red Cross project. This resulted in the Red Cross signing an agreement in 1994 with the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (MCBS), entrusting the administration of Bel-Air Hospital to the MCBS and appointing Fr.Tomy as the Administrator. The initial revival phase was painful and, to say the least, traumatic. Even the basic infrastructure and equipment needed for managing a handful of TB patients (to be precise 30 in three wards), was lacking. The system was functioning, so to say, on a respirator, with just three nun sisters, Sr. Dawn, Sr. Rexia and Sr. Rose Thomas shouldering the entire burden of keeping Bel-Air going with professional nursing help. Even critical ancillary equipment needed for removal of sputum from the throats of patients who developed breathlessness, could not be purchased owing to acute financial stringency. Father Tomy who had just been appointed as the Administrator had a daunting task in front of him. From the moment he took charge, he recognized that he needed to mobilize resource for the turnaround of fortunes of Bel-Air. In this he received the full support of the Chairman and Managing Committee of Bel-Air, who through their contacts were able to raise the seed money needed for the turnaround of Bel-Air. Once again, it was the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust that came to the rescue of Bel-Air. Mr. Rusi Lala, the executive head of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, got his Trust to sanction on a recurring basis, a respectably large donation to rebuild the eroded corpus and this donation played a catalytic role in getting things moving at Bel-Air. Aside from obtaining resources, admitting patients for treatment, strengthening the staff and clarifying the governance of the Hospital as well as upgrading its facilities, were major elements of Fr. Tomy’s agenda.
Financial tightness was one element of the Bel-Air crisis. The other more serious and intractable problem was labour unrest. Under the influence of the labour unions, the support staff turned militant, threatening the professional, medical and nursing staff and preventing them from performing their duties. Matters reached a flashpoint in 1998, when an unruly mob instigated by a section of the workers went on a rampage, attacking the staff, destroying hospital property and forcing the police to place the Administrator in the lock up for his safety.
Bel-Air management took serious note of the developments and forthwith declared a lockout for two long months. This meant shifting patients to Satara and Pune. This situation impressed upon the Chairman and the members of the Maharashtra State Red Cross the necessity of making far reaching changes at Bel-Air, in fact of overhauling the entire set-up. It was a challenge that was unflinchingly accepted.
From then on the restructuring of Bel-Air proceeded smoothly. It has overcome some seemingly insurmountable obstacles, thanks to the dogged perseverance and tenacity of the Administrator, supported by the medical faculty and the nursing staff. The new Management Committee appointed to help in the restructuring of this health care Institution, recognized the potential of the hospital to act as a catalyst serving large rural population, for Bel-Air is the only hospital of its kind in the Satara District. It was further recognized that if the hospital had to satisfy the most urgent needs of the surrounding population it had to enlarge its services by adding departments like orthopedic, pediatrics and general medicine. Even an ICU, which is an indispensable part of a modern hospital, has found a place on the Bel-Air Hospital map. And after much debate and careful consideration and moving with the times, Bel-Air Hospital complex added an Ayurvedic and Naturopathy Centre giving a new dimension to the Red Cross Health Care projects. Within a short span of two years, it has become a fairly popular form of treatment. This project was conceived for the upper and middle segments of health conscious society and income generated from the project was intended to subsidize the losses incurred in running the main hospital and the TB and AIDS ward.

The success achieved at revamping Bel-Air has indeed been remarkable. In this, Fr. Tomy provided the leadership and a mission – an essential determinant of organizational performance. His contribution and that of the medical and nursing staff, have provided critical input in operating a large public health care facility in a remote part of the State and under rapidly changing health care environment. This was tellingly brought out in the remarks made by Dr. P.C. Alexander, former Governor of Maharashtra, when he visited Bel-Air in the summer of 2001. He is reported to have said “ I have visited Bel-Air regularly during the last eight years since I have been the Governor of the State. I am impressed by the change I see today.

Today Bel-Air is a full fledged general hospital with 250 beds in departments of general medicine, Orthopedics, Paediatrics, Gynaecology, TB and HIV medicine. There are also weekly clinics for Ophthalmology, Skin & VD. There is a modern dental clinic, ICU and operation theatre block which are the best in the district. Bel-Air has all the extra facilities like Pathological Laboratory, X-ray Laboratory, ECG and sonography departments.

There is always medical staff on duty 24 hours a day. Bel-Air provides the staff with quarters so in that they live and work in Bel-Air. Many of the workers and drivers are HIV positive. There is a fully equipped kitchen which provides food for the patients as well as for staff. The food served to patients and staff is the same.

MEMBERS OF THE BEL-AIR COMMITTEE

Shri K.M.Gherda Chairman
Smt.Homai N Modi Hon.Secretary
Mr.Nawshir Mirza Hon. Treasurer
Dr.(Mrs.)C.J.Batliwala  
Smt.Roda Billimoria  
Fr.Dominic Mundatt, M.C.B.S.  
Fr.George V, M.C.B.S.  
Fr.Tomy K M.C.B.S. Director

Bel-Air programme is an intergrated community based programme which is composed of the following elements:

Treatment
Training of for nurses, doctors, and other care workers.
HIV-AIDS and Community Care Center