Mental healthcare in city led by women

Historian V Sriram’s talk on Monday at the Press Institute in Taramani as part of the Madras Week celebrations was a delightful look at the city’s evolution as the medicare capital of the country.

Published: 22nd August 2019 02:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd August 2019 05:17 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: Historian V Sriram’s talk on Monday at the Press Institute in Taramani as part of the Madras Week celebrations was a delightful look at the city’s evolution as the medicare capital of the country. Titled ‘The medicare history of Madras’, the 60-minute talk was peppered with stories from the corridors of some of the oldest and finest medicare institutions in the country.

Most of the biggest strides the city has witnessed in terms of mental health care have been taken by women, he said, be it organisations like SNEHA, SCARF, The Banyan, or doctors like Suniti Solomon who brought issues like AIDS awareness and treatment to the fore. These institutions are shaping the city’s medicare history.

Historian V Sriram  Martin

It came as no surprise that most of the English hospitals in Madras were out of bounds for Indians earlier. The Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH), known as Government Hospital then, was the oldest hospital in the city, dating back to 1664.  It was only after 1842 that Indians were permitted as patients. Meanwhile, various communities ran their own hospitals. 

“People began taking treatment at these hospitals only from the 1870s,” he said. “There were a lot of community nursing homes and hospitals, which were out-patient facilities run by Tamil Chettiyars, Gujaratis, Marwaris, Jains and Christian missionaries. While the  English were running a parallel system, somewhere along the way the two merged with enormous benefit for the city.”
He said, one of the doctors who worked at the RGGGH during the 1690s, Edward Bulkley, performed the country’s first post-mortem. This took place when his colleague told him that he had killed his patient. Only upon investigating was it found that the compounder had mixed the medicine in a vessel used to powder arsenic.

Through intriguing, amusing and thought-provoking anecdotes, Sriram kept the audience engaged as he meandered through the medicare hotspots in the city. He covered everything from the RGGGH to Egmore Maternity Hospital and Sankara Nethralaya. He spoke about the Perambur Railway Hospital, which has produced some of the best cardiac specialists and surgeons, thus paving the way for Chennai to become the hub for cardiac treatment in the country. He went on to emphasise the coming of Apollo Hospitals as a game-changer. 

“Apollo Hospitals beginning operations was a turning point in the medicare history of the city and the country,” he said. “While privatisation of hospitals and medical education is debated, there is no denying that Apollo Hospitals raised the bar and forced other hospitals to match the quality that it was offering.”

More from Chennai.


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp