Healthy Beginning

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It was a childhood dream that made this south Kashmir boy pursue medicine and then start a hospital of his own. Suhail A Shah tells his story 

Al-Noor-Hospital-AnantnagFor 34-year-old Dr Bilal Ahmad Dar, working at different private nursing homes for 8 years helped him to understand infrastructural inadequacies and functioning of hospitals in Kashmir.

The experience gained prompted him to venture into entrepreneurship and established 10 bedded Al-Noor Hospital in south Kashmir’s Islamabad district.

A Unani doctor by profession Dar is from Frisal village in Kulgam district. Hailing from middleclass family Dar’s parents wanted him to become a doctor. The dream however was curtailed briefly after he failed to qualify Common Entrance Test (CET) in Kashmir.

That did not stop him however. He qualified entrance test of Kanpur University in Uttar Pradesh and began studying Unani medicines.

After completing his degree in 2002 from Jamia Tibbia Deoband, Uttar Pardesh, Dar came back and started working at a private nursing home in Islamabad district.  Dar worked at two different nursing homes for about 8 years till 2010.

“The functioning of these nursing homes troubled me as they were run by non-medicos. I thought, if these non-medicos can run a hospital, why can’t I,” Dar says.

Like, Dar explains, the owners of these nursing homes often compromise on the most basic of the equipments in operation theatres and other places in the hospital.

“They are concerned about just profits, which is not bad if done while taking care of patients and the hospital,” adds Dar.

That’s when Dar came to know about the Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI) and schemes offered by it to wannabe entrepreneurs through a friend.

However taking a final decision to start his own hospital and leave his job took about 2 years to make.

“Leaving your job in Kashmir, government or otherwise, is considered to be un-wise. It was a tough call to make,” said Dar.

In 2012 Dar finally approached EDI and was granted a loan of Rs 22.5 Lacs including a seed capital of Rs 7.5 Lacs. The project however needed big investment than what EDI has provided. “I had to invest quite a huge sum on my own as well,” said Dar.  By 2013 Dar’s Al-Noor Hospital was functional from a rented building in Islamabad town.

“Thank God! The response has been immense since day one,” a visibly beaming Dar says.

Since January 2013, Dar claims that his private hospital has done around 5 thousand minor surgeries while catering to around 7000 patients.  “We have maintained a standard. We don’t compromise on facilities, hygiene and the comfort of the patients. Perhaps that is the key to our growth,” Dar adds.

Presently 25 surgeons work with the hospital on need basis while as the permanent staff at the facility is 26. Dar takes immense pride in being a source of income to 26 other families apart from his own.

Besides the hospital provides free mess service to all of its employees.

He says that the hospital is upgrading on the facilities as time passes by and as of now they have sections including the General Surgery, Gynaecology, ENT, Orthopaedics, Plastic Surgery and the OPD.

OPD and emergency are the most important aspects of our hospital given its location, says Dar.

Dr Bilal Ahmad Dar

Dr Bilal Ahmad Dar

“We are located at a busy road and very near to the city centre. Accidents are not a rarity and we have been able to save some trauma patients for being easily accessible,” Dar says, adding that the hospital provides free ambulances to trauma patients if need arises to refer them to elsewhere.

“This hospital has a central line oxygen supply which is not available even at the Islamabad district hospital, the biggest in south Kashmir,” said Abdul Hameed Mir, general surgeon who works at Al-Noor Hospital on need basis. “This hospital gets its own patients rather than doctors bringing their own referrals, which is something unique in Kashmir.”

This, Mir feels, essentially means that the word of mouth has done its bit for the hospital and it has been able to create a rapport of sorts.

Dar claims that Al-Noor Hospital registers an annual turnover of Rs 1.5 Crore and a monthly profit of Rs 1.5 Lac.

“Paying rent for the building eats a part of our profit,” says Dar, who is very keen to expand the hospital.

“I have identified a piece of land and negotiations are on to purchase it. We will be moving to our own place and hopefully soon,” says a proud Dar.

Before taking a leave Dar proudly flaunts a picture of a new-born they were able to deliver at the hospital during floods, “It’s just the beginning.”

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