Where service is the motto...

Healing Touch

Located in the heart of Bangalore, St Martha’s Hospital celebrated 125 years of offering medical treatment, last week. From a humble beginning with just out patient facility on 20 acres of land gifted by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1886, the 500 bed hospital has grown leaps and bounds.

In spite of being a charitable hospital run by Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the hospital has not made any compromise on the quality of services it provides. It has withstood competition from corporate hospitals for the last 25 years.

A noble cause

Circa 1884, the then Maharaja of Mysore Chamaraja Wodeyar X was impressed by the dedicated and relentless service of the Good Shepherd Sisters and gifted them 20 acres of land. The Irish, French and German sisters, all in their late 20s, looked after patients, which cost 10 sisters their lives.

The sisters, who died caring for plague ridden residents, were buried at the Sacred Heart Church Cemetery as that was the only Christian cemetery available at that time, explains Sr Prameela, head of St Martha’s Hospital Society. Since the land was handed over on the eve of the feast of St Martha, the hospital was named St Martha’s Hospital. In the same year, a chapel was built on the premises.

In 1886, the administrative building, female and male wards — three structures,  which are still preserved in the St Martha’s campus — were built. The only other hospital, at that time, was Lady Curzon and Bowring Hospital, which catered to British soldiers. Since the sisters only had expertise in nursing, the local doctors from Victoria Hospital would lend their help by visiting the hospital and treating patients.

Sr Prameela recalls that when St John’s Medical College started offering courses in medicine in the 1960s, the institution took the help of St Martha’s Hospital for practical sessions. “They tied up with us till the 1980s. The teaching faculty would bring their students here for clinical practise,” says Sr Prameela. In fact, the conference hall near the second gate was the room where classes were held.

As the hospital has ample space to expand, many of the existing structures have given way to new specialities. For instance, the stone laden dental and physiotherapy building was an operation theatre earlier. Similarly, the resident medical officer’s quarter was the maternity ward and the present financial department came in the place of the male medical ward. Even the large, well maintained garden at the entrance of the hospital actually, is a green cover for the 300 kilo litres effluent treatment plant underneath it.

The treated water is used for gardening and flushing toilets. It also has solar panels and rain water harvesting facilities installed on all the buildings. Over the years, the hospital has also lost about 3.5 acres of land. “Some land went in road widening and the rest went to build the house of Director General of Police and Inspector General of Police,” says the hospital administrator Commodore D’Cunha.  

Apart from providing medical care, the hospital also believes in training people in offering medical care. Its nursing college, built in 1933, and post graduation DNB course are known for their quality training across the country. Students who pass out after pursuing these courses are quickly absorbed into the industry, say the senior doctors cum faculty members. Over the years, training programmes for midwives and internship for pharmacists have also been established.

Old timers

Many doctors and nurses in the hospital have spent their student years here and continue their association with the institution by joining the hospital. Some of them have even been part of the centenary year celebration of the hospital. “Attending the 125th anniversary celebrations of the hospital was a wonderful experience. I was here for the centenary celebration too,” says Dr Subramaniyan, Head of Medicine, who has been associated with the hospital for 28 years.

Dr Indira Ramaiah, who joined the hospital in 1978 after her post graduation, says that what makes this hospital different from the others is that it has a warm aura and atmosphere. Sr Lorraine, a senior nurse, has spent many a years on the St Martha’s campus even before she joined the hospital. Daughter of a former resident medical officer at the hospital, she feels proud to be part of a prestigious institution like St Martha’s.

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