BENGALURU: In a corner of the Albert Victor Road stands a remarkable, two-storeyed stone structure of the Minto Ophthalmic Hospital, an example from the Golden Age of Princely Mysore. Amidst the other old hospitals on the same stretch of road, such as Victoria and Vani Vilas hospitals, Minto is said to be the first specialty hospital in the state that provides tertiary eye care.
The hospital started functioning in 1896 as a small dispensary in a shop in the Chickpet area. Independent researcher and historian Arun Prasad says, “It had a couple of rooms and Dr S V Ramanaswamy Iyengar, an eye specialist was the first medical officer. It is said that it started working with nine outpatients on the first day. As the number of patients kept increasing, the clinic was shifted the next year in 1897 to Lalbagh Road. It then operated from the Lal Bagh Lodge, with the provision to care for 16 patients.”
The average daily out-patient attendance rose to 35 by 1903 and a number of operations were done every week. According to a journal, the in-patient accommodation was subsequently raised to 36 beds (25 for men and 11 for women). By 1910, the staff consisted of one superintendent, one sub-assistant surgeon, one compounder, seven ward attendants and two scavengars.
A bigger hospital became necessary because of an increasing number of patients and the outbreak of plague, therefore the present building was planned and the foundation stone was laid by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV on December 17, 1910, in commemoration of the Viceroyalty of Earl of Minto.
The construction work was completed in two years and the hospital was inaugurated and opened for public service by the Maharaja on January 31, 1913. After a year of inauguration, Minto passed away.
In 1923, a women and children’s ward Seethamma Ward was endowed by Seethamma Krishna Iyengar.
The English system of having a Lay Secretary was introduced for a group of four hospitals -Victoria Hospital, Vani Vilas Hospital, Children’s hospital and Minto Ophthalmic hospital - situated close to each other. The secretary had a responsibility of diets, linen, lighting, repair works and such of all the hospitals.
Dr Ramesh T K, Director, Minto Opthalmic Hospital says, “It is remarkable that the Maharaja had a vision to start an eye speciality hospital. This is probably the first specialty hospital in not just Bengaluru but Karnataka and one of the oldest in the country.”
Hospital for Poor
The hospital was primarily intended for the poor and all patients whose monthly income was below `50 were given free advice and treatment. There was no charge for either diet, clothing or for operations when they are in-patients. Patients whose monthly income exceeded `50 were charged a nominal fee of 2 annas to 4 annas for a daily attendance as out-patients and 8 annas daily for stay as in-patients including diet, clothing etc.
Dr Ramesh who has been serving in the hospital since 1982 says laughingly, “I joined the hospital as a PG student in 1982. Before that, I have been to the hospital as a patient in 1974 to treat the irritation in my eye. I was at school then.”
Top Regional Institute
Due to its contribution in the medical field and services, Minto Opthalmic Hospital was accredited as the Regional Institute under the National Programme for Control of Blindness in 1982. Dr Ramesh adds, “So, we got some funding from the central government.”
“It is one of the top eight regional institutes in the country,” adds Dr B L Sujatha Rathod whose father was the director of the institute. “My father Prof R Lalya Naik was the first director of this institute. He served from 1983 to 1988. Before that, there were only medical superintendents. This hospital was mainly meant for the poor people. We were focussing our services only on cataract before but now, it has specialised into various sectors such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.”
She adds, “The institute has trained several top ophthalmologists. Dri Sri Ganesh at Nethradhama is from Minto. There are many doctors in Narayana Nethralaya from Minto.”
The ornate cast iron gate adds a value to this heritage stone structure. Arun Prasad adds,“Some of the stones used in the construction of the building were resused from the damaged fort walls. The entrance porch has stone arches.”
The current capacity of the hospital is that of 300 beds. There are about seven professors, 33 doctors and 30 PG students in the hospital including specialists in different branches of ophthalmology.
The institute is known to keep itself up to date with the advancement in the ophthalmic studies. In 1975, a block for corneal grafting was added. A new block for OPD patients was recently opened. A floor in the block will be completely dedicated to children with eye injuries. Eight new operations theatres in the block are also being built.
The government-run speciality hospital charges only Rs 10 for consultation and offers free cataract surgeries for poor people. It is affiliated to Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute.
(If you wish to offer furniture or other equipments for the new block in the hospital, you may get in touch with the administration)