By Dr C K Ballal
MS, MSc (Neuro Surgery) (England)
Mangaluru, Aug 23: It all started in 1970 when Dr K R Shetty returned from Britain after his training at one of the foremost neurological centres in the world, The National Hospital for Neurological Disorders, London. Those were the days before the CT scan. He surmised that whatever was being done in the UK could be done in Mangaluru too at a basic level. He contacted three other specialists, Dr A V Shetty, a cardiologist, Dr S R Ullal, a cardiothoracic surgeon and Dr P Kothandaram, a neurosurgeon. They were all competent doctors trained in some of the best centres in India and abroad. They approached the district surgeon of Government Wenlock Hospital, Dr P N Ariga. Dr Ariga was a wonderful person. He readily agreed to their proposal but said that Wenlock being only a district hospital, the government funds will not be available for higher specialities. When they approached the principal of the Kasturba Medical College which was using the Wenlock Hospital for clinical teaching, he said that the college lacks resources for the project. The group discussed the matter with their colleagues and eminent citizens of Mangaluru. They resolved to form the Mangalore Medical Relief Society and fund it through donations. The mission of the Society was to start the higher specialities at the basic level. The vision was to scale it up to become a premier institute with the support of Karnataka state. This was to be the first such attempt in the country in a government district hospital.
They requested the young Veerendra Heggade, Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala to be the president of the society to which he readily agreed. Dr P N Ariga was nominated as the vice-president, Dr K R Shetty was nominated as the founder secretary and Dr C R Kamath, as the treasurer. The collection of funds was a great success. Dr P N Krishnamurthy, Dr K R Ballal, Dr V R Kamath, Dr M D Adappa, Ullal Ramakrishna Mallya, Louella Lobo Prabhu and many others helped the society in this venture. N A Muthanna, the deputy commissioner of the district facilitated the visit of the President of India in appreciation of the work done for instituting the Mangalore Medical Relief Society. The society was formally inaugurated by V V Giri, President of India on December 26, 1971, and the function was presided over by the Governor of Karnataka, Dharma Vira. Subsequently, the Cardiothoracic and Neurosurgerical Block of Wenlock Hospital was inaugurated by B D Jatti, Vice President of India on January 3, 1975.
Memorial Plaque of Inauguration of Cardiothorasic and Neurosurgery Block by B D Jatti
Regional Advanced Pediatric Care Centre, Mangaluru
Kasturba Medical College was not able to allot the beds for the four super-speciality units. Ullal Srinivas Mallya Trust represented by Manel Srinivas Nayak partly funded the building project in memory of the late U Srinivas Mallya for this purpose. The Mangalore Medical Relief Society offered a sum of three lakh rupees for the purpose of construction of a speciality floor over the two storey outpatient block of the Wenlock District Hospital. The government administration readily agreed and provided 80 beds and an operation theatre complex. The honorary secretary, Dr K R Shetty had to make nineteen visits to Bengaluru, sometimes accompanied by the trustees to get the building project sanctioned and later on the speciality units sanctioned to function in a government hospital as it was an entirely unprecedented venture. As a pre-requisite to this, the government referred the matter to two specialists, a neurosurgeon and a thoracic surgeon. Dr R M Varma an eminent neurosurgeon and the founder director of NIMHANS not only strongly recommended the project but added that similar basic level facilities should be provided in all district hospitals.
Dr P N Krishnamurthy took over as the secretary. A few years later, the Urology unit with Dr A Bhaskar Rao as in-charge and the Paediatric surgery unit with Dr Ganesh Pai as in-charge were added on as super-specialities. The society provided basic equipment to all the units. Mr Damodar Prabhu, father of the late Dr Vivekananda Prabhu, gave the first ventilator to Wenlock hospital. All the departments started functioning satisfactorily.
Dr S R Ullal performed even open heart surgery. A heart-lung machine was purchased at a cost of thirty five thousand rupees. A pump technician came from the Harefield hospital, London and trained the clinical pathologist Dr T A Bailur. He made himself available for cardio-pulmonary bypass cases whenever required. All the specialists carried on their respective speciality work in private nursing homes and the Father Muller's Hospital as well. Thus the establishment of Mangalore Medical Relief Society indirectly led to the availability of super-speciality services to the private patients in and around Mangaluru including the neighbouring districts of Kerala.
Dr P N Krishnamurthy was succeeded as secretary of the society by Dr A Divaker Rao, Dr Vivekananda Prabhu, Dr B Shantharam Baliga, Dr C K Ballal and Dr Priya Ballal in that order.
Due to paucity of funds the Society went into a sleeping mode for a few years though the speciality work at the Wenlock hospital continued unabated. In 1996, Kadri Park View Apartments donated ten lakh rupees to the society. This was appreciated by the benevolent banker, chairman and MD of the Corporation Bank, Ramamurthy who gave a matching grant of ten lakh rupees. He was helped by M V Nair, the general manager of the bank. Dr B Shantharam Baliga set up a state of the art NICU at Lady Goschen hospital.
When Infosys Foundation wanted to put up a building in a government hospital, they honoured the Wenlock District Hospital by awarding the project to it. This was based on the credentials of the Mangalore Medical Relief Society, represented by Dr Shantharam Baliga as the secretary and others. Sudha Murthy, the president of the Infosys Foundation gave a generous grant of over five crore rupees for establishing the Regional Advanced Paediatric Care Centre (RAPCC). The Mangalore Medical Relief Society donated ten lakh rupees for a transformer for the building.
In recent years, the society has financed a software project to the tune of eight lakh rupees for monitoring and controlling Malaria by the Mangaluru City Corporation. The society has also upgraded a new ambulance acquired by the Wenlock Hospital by fitting it with a portable ventilator. The Mangalore Medical Relief Society has also been supporting the speciality services at the Wenlock Hospital by supplying smaller pieces of equipment as per the requirement of the various departments. Over the last few years, the demand to finance the purchase and maintenance of equipment has decreased as the government has the benefit of utilising the student clinical fees fund. As is well known, the hospital is in a private public partnership (PPP) with the Kasturba Medical College, the first one in the country since 1956.
In 1990, the KMC decided to start a Higher Speciality Centre in Mangaluru under the directorship of Dr K R Shetty after his retirement as principal of the KMC, Mangaluru. The partially built ‘Chandra Building’ at Dr Ambedkar Circle was acquired. It was called The University Medical Centre. The construction of the building was completed and the first private higher speciality centre in Mangaluru became fully operational from 1997. It is known as KMC Hospital, Ambedkar Circle. After 1998, there was an exponential growth in higher speciality work in Mangaluru with the advent of seven medical colleges and a number of private hospitals. Today Mangaluru can claim to be a city with one of the best medical care facilities in the country.
The Mangalore Medical Relief Society has been a catalytic agent for the development of higher specialities in Mangaluru. It galvanised the vast sluggish infrastructure of Wenlock and Lady Goschen Hospitals. The Kasturba Medical College complemented this effort. The KMC in turn benefited by the additional teaching beds and provided better quality education particularly at the postgraduate level. This would not have been possible without the generous support given by the public of Mangaluru and its medical fraternity. The Corporation Bank and Karnataka Bank have contributed to this effort over the last several years. In recent years, the ONGC/MRPL have emerged as major donors to our cause with their funding of surgical equipment at the RAPCC and construction of the new block of Lady Goschen Hospital as a part of their corporate social responsibility.
The Mangalore Medical Relief Society achieved its mission long ago, but its vision remains unfulfilled. The society did try in the 1970s to scale up the departments but the Government of Karnataka did not have the resources. The government has now put up a speciality block at Wenlock Hospital. With the PPP and Ayushman Bharath scheme, the society hopes that its long awaited vision will be fulfilled.