On the southern-most tip of Mumbai once stood a structure that served the British troops for more than a century.
Built in 1756, the Seamen’s Hospital has now graduated and expanded into one of the finest command hospitals of the Indian armed forces.
From 300 to 825 beds, Indian Naval Hospital Ship (INHS) Asvini has gradually grown in strength since it was commissioned to the Indian Navy on September 18, 1951.
The hospital entered its diamond jubilee year on Saturday.
“INHS Asvini has grown in stature as it has subtly blended the state-of-the-art facilities with corporate sophistication. Our endeavour to incorporate sub-specialties has ensured that the hospital stands out as the finest in the city of Mumbai,” said Surgeon Rear Admiral KK Singh.
And true to Rear Admiral Singh’s claims, the hospital has most medical facilities on its premises including cardiology, endocrinology, neurology, nephrology, oncology and nuclear medicine.
They are also equipped to treat civilians in case of emergency, added Surgeon Captain KI Mathai, who heads the neurosurgery department and handles public relations.
Like they did when an earthquake rocked Bhuj in Kutch, Gujarat, on January 26, 2001.
Surgical teams from INHS Asvini reached Kutch within six hours of the disaster. They set up camp in the worst affected areas, treated the injured and even delivered babies.
They also set up a special 100-bed wing for quake victims, who were shipped in by naval warships from distant areas such as Kandla.
“We could have been very effective during the Mumbai terrorist attacks on November 26, 2008. Most private hospitals are not used to treating gunshot wounds or splinter injuries, but we are trained to handle such trauma patients. People still do not know that our doors are open in such cases of emergency,” said a naval officer, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media.
In addition to providing state-of-the-art medical care, the hospital is also a teaching institution of repute, recognised by the University of Mumbai for post-graduate courses in all major medical and surgical disciplines.
Training schools for nursing and para-medical staff are also run at INHS Asvini, which is coordinated by the Institute of Naval Medicine.
But INHS Asvini has had its bit of adversities too.
Till the early 90s though the hospital grew in size and capability, no concerted effort had been made to create suitable infrastructure for this flagship hospital of the Indian Navy.
In May 1992, the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs accorded approval for the modernisation plans for Rs 136 crore. Four years later, work started on the construction of a new building and restoring the heritage buildings to their pristine glory.
INHS Asvini’s role of serving the armed forces has been characterised in Farhan Akhtar’s film Lakshya. Parallels can be drawn with actor Hrithik Roshan’s role in the film to that of soldiers who recuperated at this naval hospital during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.