Monday, June 7, 2010

Birthplace of 'Ob-Gyn'

INTACH's guide on Madras' architecture says the buildings are "Laid out in the shape of the female pelvis". Several sorties overhead on Google Maps does not show me any resemblance - no wonder I did not become an architect. There is however another story, of one of the early chiefs describing the building's layout in anatomical terms. Those flights of fancy are understandable, for the Government Hospital for Women and Children, (at first known as Lying-in Hospital) was the first specialised maternity hospital in India (and probably in Asia) and its early superintendents were doubtless eager to link that speciality with everything in sight.

Today, the hospital clocks around 18,000 births every year, but in its first year, it barely reached the three-figure mark. That was in 1844, when the hospital was situated nearer the River Cooum than it currently is. It was only in 1882 that the present buildings were occupied - thanks to the efforts of Sir Arthur Mudge Branfoot, KCIE, who was then a Surgeon of the Madras Medical Service. In 1921, the teaching block came up, named after Maj. Gen. G.G. Giffard, who had presided over the hospital's expansion between 1905 and 1917.

The hospital was also the birthplace of the Obstetric and Gynaecological Society of Southern India - and, in 1936 played host to the first ever national Ob-Gyn Congress, held at the Museum Theatre, just next door. With such an impressive heritage, it should be no surprise that the hospital boasts of a 120% bed-occupancy rate even today!

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