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  • Writer's pictureProf. Mohan Singh


Let us now admit that this pandemic is a manmade calamity that has torn as under the warp and woof of each and every system and ruined a once well-oiled health care machinery. The only Infectious Diseases Hospital in entire north India located in the city of Amritsar has demolished long ago but the acronym IDH stands as the name of a market. Similarly, the 15 acres or so of salubrious and idyllic foliage in which Amritsar TB Hospital was once housed, cries for attention.

But I remember as clearly as yesterday that excellent pre-natal, post-natal or gynaecological healthcare facilities were available at government institutions those days, there being almost no private hospital. On my wife's first pregnancy in 1964, we used to go to the maternity centre near the Railway level crossing, for a periodic check-up in the afternoon. One day, she was detained, and when I came back, the baby had already arrived, a healthy five-pound boy. We were totally ignorant of the expected date of delivery (EDD) given on the OPD slip itself. After four or five days, we came happily but I clearly remember, we didn't incur any expenses except ten paise on the admission ticket. Delivery by Caesarean Section was rare.

Pathology laboratories would open at 08.00 AM to collect samples and you could see queues of testees ready to offer blood or other samples like urine, stools or sputum. Reports would always be ready by the next morning and reach the concerned OPDs automatically. The X-Ray Department housed near the corridor supporting the orthopaedic department, was a picture of quiet discipline. Heart diseases were not so common but a special Friday clinic in the afternoon was more than sufficient to meet the needs. All OPDs had a special teaching room adjoining them and the Professor would select a couple of patients, present them in hospital conditions and invite the medicos to diagnose the malady. Others would record the questions asked and write case histories. ECG facility had just arrived but doctors usually depended on the stethoscope and their own analysis. A unique feature of the hospital was its epidemiological department active in preventing viral or seasonal ills. School kids were observed for any serious problem.

That was the glorious period in the history of this most important health care centre of north India. Alas! The institution was first re-christened as Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital from the existing heritage Victoria Jubilee Hospital Amritsar constructed in 1887 to commemorate the 50th year of Empress Victoria's ascension to the British throne. Only domes on all corners and pillars were put up.

But after the beds, offices, OT, labs etc were shifted to the new campus, lock, stock and barrel in the 1970s, SGTB Hospital premises were abandoned. Just abandoned. No mind was applied on how to put the heritage structure to new users like renting parts and wings, East/West Medical Wards, East/West Surgical Wards, the labs, the vast X-Ray Department, the mansion-like Family Wards etc to private doctors, or perhaps use it as office space for court complex or municipal complex without going in for expensive new structures. The idea is that just abandoning the Royal seats of medical and surgical stalwarts, the likes of Dr Malhotra the cardiologist, Dr Ajmer Singh, Dr GM Taneja the last word on Ear, Nose Throat, Dr GC Gulati the Ophthalmologist, and above all Dr Wig was not the only option. Some OPDs could have been retained with status. Now, perhaps some British NRI doctors may still exploit its potential as a site. The outlandish scheme of turning it into an Urban Haat is still in the doldrums while the bigger southern wing is the haunt of huge rats, cats (they are scared of the bandicoot size rats), dogs, snakes, and dominated by well-maintained Congress grass. Any takers?

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Prof. Mohan Singh

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