PMCH turns 96; hope our plea to save its heritage landmarks will be heard by govt, say alumni

·4-min read

Patna, Feb 25 (PTI) The historic PMCH, founded as the Prince of Wales Medical College whose heritage buildings are set to be demolished for a redevelopment project, turned 96 on Thursday, even as several alumni of the institution hoped that the Bihar government will listen to their plea to preserve its key landmarks for posterity.

A large section of the alumni of Bihar and Orissa's first medical college spread globally, as well as heritage lovers have expressed anguish over the state government's move to dismantle its landmark buildings, with some asserting that medical infrastructure can be upgraded through 'other reasonable measures'.

On Thursday, a very low-key foundation day function was held on the premises of the Patna Medical College and Hospital, popularly known as the PMCH. The birth anniversary celebrations this year has been heavily curtailed due to the COVID-19 safety norms, officials said.

During the simple ceremony held in the Platinum Jubilee Auditorium, meritorious students were awarded gold medals and some doctors were also felicitated, PMCH Alumni Association president, Dr Satyajeet Kumar Singh, said.

In his address at the event attended by Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey, Singh highlighted the glorious past of the institution, the story of its genesis and evolution from the Temple Medical School in 1874 in Patna, and Mahatma Gandhi's visit to the hospital in 1947.

'We had made a plea earlier to spare the demolition of some of the key historic buildings of the PMCH for posterity. Today, we apprised the state health minister of the historical significance of the old buildings, and reaffirmed our appeal to save at least few of the heritage structures, for the future generations,' Singh said.

The PMCH Alumni Association had recently appealed to preserve and restore the administrative building which houses the Principal's Office; and the old Bankipore General Hospital Building equipped with a British-era lift, housing the Hathwa Ward and the old operation theatre.

Other historic buildings in the PMCH campus, facing the wrecking ball include, the Women Hospital set up in 1930, also equipped with a special lift of that era, old Radium Institute (now department of radiotherapy), and physiology and anatomy departments.

The plea had come days after the foundation stone of the mega redevelopment project of the PMCH was laid by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on February 8 on the campus.

As part of the revamp plan, a 5,462-bed hospital complex will come up in three phases at the site at a cost of Rs 5,540 crore, and the project is expected to be completed in seven years.

The institution, originally christened as the Prince of Wales Medical College, was established in 1925, to perpetuate the memory of the visit of the then Prince of Wales, Edward VIII, to Patna in December 1921. It was renamed to PMCH, a few decades after the Independence.

Noted orthopaedic surgeon R N Sinha, who holds a Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS), graduated from the college in 1967 after finishing his MBBS, recalled that it was 'a golden era of the college', and 'we were taught by some of the best doctors in the world'.

'PMCH as we know it today, was then referred to by its original name, the Prince of Wales Medical College, and what prestige it had, in India and abroad. During my FRCS interview, my college name itself was a huge credential,' he said.

Patna-based Sinha, who had practised a few decades ago in the UK, lamented the government's move to knock down heritage buildings, and appealed to preserve the key landmarks dotting the sprawling campus of the PMCH, located on the banks of Ganga.

'The Administrative Building, Hathwa Ward (old Bankipore General Hospital Building), Women Hospital facing the Ashok Rajpath are also architectural landmarks, which carry within their sturdy walls, legends and stories of the heydays of this medical institution and its evolution over the decades,' he said.

The huge marble plaque, bearing the old name of the college and the Prince of Wales' royal crest outside the chamber of the college principal in the Administrative Building, reads that the college was established in 1925 and formally inaugurated by the then Lt Governor of Bihar and Orissa Sir Henry Wheeler on February 25, 1927.

P N Pandit, head of the radiotherapy department, said the PMCH has completed its glorious 96 years, and 'I am hopeful, the state government will be sympathetic to the plea of the alumni, and spare the key heritage'.

'The Radium Institute (now Radiotherapy Department) is believed to be country's first cancer institute, and its walls were built with massive thickness, like a bunker to stop radiation leakage. Patients from Bihar, Jharkhand, and sometimes Nepal also come for treatment here,' he said. PTI KND TDS RC