PMCH started as Prince of Wales Medical College, heritage buildings set to be razed for revamp

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Patna, Feb 9 (PTI) The iconic heritage buildings of the PMCH, which was founded in 1925 as the Prince of Wales Medical College, are set to be consigned to history as the old structures of the historic institution in Patna are planned to be demolished as part of a major redevelopment project.

The then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, had visited Patna on December 22-23 in 1921 as part of his royal tour of India, and Bihar’s and Orissa's first medical college was named after him to commemorate his visit to what was then a young provincial capital.

The college, renamed a few decades after Independence as the Patna Medical College and Hospital, popularly known as PMCH, is dotted with historical buildings, including the Bankipore General Hospital and Women Hospital, which were equipped with special lifts in that era, the main administrative building, and physiology and anatomy departments, among other structures.

A few years ago, these old heritage buildings were proposed to be dismantled in multiple phases as part of the mega redevlopment plan, whose foundation stone was laid by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday.

As part of the revamp plan, a 5462-bed hospital complex will come up at the site at a cost of Rs 5,540 cr, and the project is expected to be completed in seven years.

At a function held on the PMCH campus, Kumar also unveiled a plaque commemorating the occasion, and said the ambitious project aims to upgrade the PMCH and make the largest public health care centre in the state a 'world-class facility'.

Heritage lovers from Patna and other places, expressed disappointment and criticised the government’s move as “an act of sacrificing heritage of Bihar in the name of development”.

Soon after the project had been proposed, it had faced opposition from the PMCH alumni, living in Bihar or abroad, who in 2018 had suggested restoring and preserving the historic institution in its original form and developing “extension centres” in peripheral areas of Patna, like Bihta or Fatuha, on the lines of AIIMS extension centres.

Bihar native and UK-based doctor Abu Eesa Siddiqui, said he was shocked that 'heritage buildings of Bihar's first medical college instead of being celebrated, will soon face the wrecking balls'.

'We have personal memories with this college. My father and youngest brother graduated from Patna Medical College. Hopefully, alumni of PMCH can create awareness on this issue and appeal to the government to spare iconic landmarks on its campus,” he said.

The hospital infrastructure will be redeveloped by the Bihar Medical Services & Infrastructure Corporation Ltd (BMSICL) on a turn-key basis. In future, there is a plan to link it with the Ganga Drive.

“The project will be executed in three phases. In the first phase, nurses’ quarters, prison ward, cottage and nurses’ institution will be demolished. Patient care work is not to be affected, as a 2200-bed hospital will come up first and then patients will be shifted there, and demolition of other buildings will take place in successive phases. As per the plan, the tallest buildings will be eight-storied,” said Dr Indra Shekhar Thakur, the Superintendent of the PMCH.

Thakur, also the head of surgery department at the historic institution, said, “After completion, the PMCH will become the world’s second-largest hospital by bed count'.

In December 2018, the then PMCH Principal Dr Ajit Kumar Verma had said that it would be a state-of-the-art facility, with “modular-operation theatres” and other high-tech amenities.

“As of now, only administrative building has been planned to be preserved, as it also has the old plaque of the inauguration of the college,” he had said.

Thakur, who took over as the Superintendent earlier this month, when asked if the administrative building will be preserved, said, “I am not privy to that information.” A huge marble plaque, bearing the old name of the college and the Prince of Wales royal crest, installed right outside the principal’s office, albeit minus it shine, tells the story of its inception, and the prestige it enjoyed earlier, all but faded now.

The plaque 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. Principal donors, included erstwhile zemindars of Darbhanga, Dumraon, Mayurbhanj, among others. An official opening ceremony was held as well.

The Prince of Wales had wrapped up his two-day Patna visit on December 23, 1921 and then moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata), where he also spent Christmas and inaugurated the iconic Victoria Memorial Hall.

The new institution, officially inaugurated two years later after it was set up, to commemorate the royal visit of 1921, stands on the banks of Ganga, as a 'priceless heritage of the city', and 'it should have been preserved at all cost,' said Patna-born doctor Navin Kumar, in his late 60s, who moved to London in 1982 to further his medical career.

'I left Patna, but my heart always hankers for these old landmarks and buildings of Bihar. I am shocked that the government even considered razing the old PMCH. It should have been saved for the future generation,' he lamented.

Prateek Nishant, a PMCH alumnus, whose great grandfather, Tarini Prasad Sinha, was among the first-graduating batch in 1927, said, “It is sad. This pioneering institution has been shorn of its glory first, and now we might lose the old heritage too, which should be preserved for posterity'. PTI KND TIR TIR TIR