Flooding at OGH a wake-up call for heritage activists

If Musi floods in 1908 necessitated its construction, recent flooding must again pave the way for new building

By Author  |  Dr Putta Srinivas  |  Published: 19th Jul 2020  12:42 am

The century-old Osmania General Hospital is once again in the news with the recent flooding. If we go into history, in 1886 Salar Jung I constructed the hospital and it was named Afzalgunj Hospital. However, the entire hospital was washed away during the Musi floods in 1908 necessitating the construction of a new hospital, which we know as Osmania General Hospital.

This hospital was constructed by seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan with famous architect Vincent in 1925. It was constructed in 26.5 acres with a capacity of 450 beds and served lakhs of patients. It is now a centre of excellence.

The anaesthetic agent, Chloroform, was studied for the first time in OGH between 1888 and 1891, and was established as a safe anaesthetic agent making surgeries painless and safe. The OGH also became the first Government General Hospital in India to perform a kidney transplant in 1982. Now, liver transplants too are being performed here.

There are many technical issues relating to construction of a new building, including allocation of land, without a vision of future needs. Originally, Osmania General Hospital was quite spacious. However, due to allocation of land for other purposes, its space shrank. Without considering the future needs, the land was allocated for an electrical substation, a police station and a dental college was constructed in the area of Resident Medical Officer quarters. The backside has Golden Jubilee Out Patient block and Quli Qutub Shah block.

At present, the land available for any construction is just 7 acres, including 2 acres in front of the hospital and 5 acres on the backside.

Heritage Building issues

The old building, which is a heritage building, occupies an area of two acres and has served for almost a century. However, technical expert reports said it cannot be utilised for patient care services. It was planned to keep the heritage building intact, strengthen it and make it a museum.

New buildings were planned in the five acres on the backside with eight floors having 1 lakh sft each making a total of 8 lakh sft available. However, this was vehemently objected to by heritage activists saying the proposed building should not be more than shoulder height of the existing building.

Going by this, the proposed new building would only be of four floors with 4 lakh sft and it would be extremely difficult to accommodate the existing medical departments. It would, therefore, not meet the future requirements.

The other technical problem is a huge underground drain from Begum Baazar area that passes below the proposed new building and heritage building. Without the heritage building being demolished, construction of a new building of four floors will be clearly insufficient.

Options available

• Keeping in view public health, heritage activists should reconsider their stand and not create obstacles for demolition and construction of a new building of eight floors with similar architecture. This will serve both objectives — of preserving architecture and focusing on the health needs of people. In my view, this will be the best option.

• Construction of buildings at a new location, which should be within 10 km radius of Osmania Medical College as per the Medical Council of India regulations. The possible options are Government Chest Hospital, which has almost 50 acres of land, or Chanchalguda Government Printing Press.

From 2015 to 2018, the number of outpatients at OGH had doubled — from 4,73,224 to 9,46,970, and the inpatient number increased from 47,347 to 52,280. These figures point to the fact that people come to OGH as outpatients but are not willing to be inpatients, perhaps because of the physical conditions of the old building. This clearly shows that we need to have a new building to take care of the inpatients too.

The Musi flood in 1908 paved the way for construction of new Osmania General Hospital building in 1925. I hope the recent flooding of rainwater will awaken all health-conscious intellectuals and make heritage activists rethink into clearing the hurdles for construction of a new building.

— Dr Putta Srinivas
(Alumnus of Osmania Medical College and former Superintendent of Osmania General Hospital. Currently, Director, Govt Medical College & Govt. General Hospital, Mahabubnagar)

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