BENGALURU: Built in 1867, Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital located in Shivaji Nagar, has stood the test of time by serving thousands of people during the outbreak of plague and cholera in the city.
It was during the outbreak of cholera in the 1890s that Indian-born British doctor Ronald Ross discovered that malaria was transmitted by mosquitoes from the marsh lands around, and he was awarded with a Nobel Prize for his findings. He was serving as a surgeon at the hospital, and was given the responsibility to investigate the causes for cholera, and report on sanitary arrangement in the city, when he made the discovery.
Arun Prasad, historian and independent researcher, says, “During the plague outbreak in 1898 that took thousands of lives, the hospital took measures to provide vaccination, treatment and other controlled measures to prevent the spreading of the disease. Plague camps were also set up across the city with assistance from this hospital.”
Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital was the first and the only civil hospital in the city until 1886, when St Martha’s Hospital on Cenotaph Road (now Nrupathunga Road) came up. The hospital plan was based on the Lariboisiere Hospital in Paris, in classical European style. It started functioning in 1868. Arun says, “It is perhaps one of the two buildings to be named after Lewis Bentham Bowring, the then commissioner of Mysore. He served as the commissioner from 1862 to 1870. He also served as a chief commissioner of Coorg. He was well-known for giving importance to sanitation and hygiene.”
First civil hospital for women in city
Though Bowring Hospital and Lady Curzon Hospitals were adjoining buildings, many might not know that they existed earlier as separate entities. Bowring Civil Hospital was established in 1867, and later, Lady Curzon Hospital was established in the late 1890s to cater to women and children. It owes its existence to Lady Victoria Curzon, wife of George Nathaniel Curzon, the then viceroy of India. According to a journal, she founded and funded the women’s hospital. Progressive medical reforms were initiated under the leadership of the Marchioness of Dufferin and Lady Curzon who provided women doctors for the hospital.
Arun says, “Both the hospitals were administered by the British with a superintendent being appointed to take care of its functioning. In 1884, the hospital administration was handed over to Civil and Mililtary stations, and after Independence in 1947, both the hospitals were handed over to the Mysuru government.”
During the 1920s, Lady Curzon Hospital used to have about a hundred beds, and was a government institution for women and children. Interestingly, there were divisions of wards - general wards, special wards and caste wards. In 1920s, the wards were upgraded and fitted with modern accessories deemed to that time. Cooking and heating were done with electricity and the hospital was run by the nuns of St Magdalene.
‘Earlier, separate wards’
Dr K A Manjunath, director-cum-dean of the hospital, recalls his days as a PG student at the institute. He says, “There was plenty of lung space on the premises in the early 1980s - it was more peaceful and beautiful. The population and patient-count were low then. In the 1990s, Bengaluru started developing rapidly, and hence, space in the hospital became inadequate. So we had to demolish few old structures as they were also in dilapidated condition and build new ones to accommodate more people. About 25 years ago, there were different structures accommodating each ward, scattered on the premises. Now, we have all wards except women care in the in-patient block, which has 85 to 90 beds on each floor of the eight-storey structure. There is a separate building for women and medical emergencies.”
He adds that adjacent to the emergency block, a trauma block will be built, which is being
funded by the National Health Mission.
‘80 per cent of old structures demolished’
The building, on 13-and-a-half acres, was originally a brick and mortar structure built in classical European style. One could see features of colonial architectural designs such as monkey tops on the windows or Victorian urns on the rooftops.Arun says that it is sad to see that most of the old structures have been demolished. Dr Manjunath admits that 80 per cent of these structures had to be pulled down due to their pitiful state and lack of space to accommodate more people. One can only see the remnants of it now,he says.
The VIP hospital
Manjunath claims that in a day, they get about 2,000 out patients. The hospital was declared a VIP hospital during the first meeting of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in India. He adds, “We provide medical care to VIPs such as sitting MLAs, ministers and bureaucrats. When a VIP visits Bengaluru, we get the call first from Bengaluru Police so that we can prepare ourselves in case a medical facility is required.” A college is also coming up on a four-acre land on the west side of the building.