From civil hospital to public health laboratory: Kerala’s old model of health care


At a time when people were afraid to accept allopathic medicines, a young queen started a vaccination wing in her princely state in southern India in the early 19th century and insisted that members of her royal family be vaccinated first.

Rani Gauri Lakshmi Bai, the capable female ruler who had administered the former princely state of Travancore from 1810 to 1814, persuaded her palace household to accept the smallpox vaccine to remove the existing stigma attached to English medicines and so bring its advantages to the ordinary. people.

His sister and successor Rani Gauri Parvathi Bai continued the mission by establishing a charity dispensary for the treatment of commoners.

In the decades following the country’s independence, the princely state opened a civil hospital, an exclusive treatment center for women and children, an insane asylum, leprosy and ophthalmology hospitals, a sanitation service, a public health laboratory, etc., and manufactured vaccines. for rabies and smallpox.

At a time when the current “Kerala model” of public health care is winning accolades around the world, its roots and foundations can be traced back to progressive and bold decisions made by royalty.

Not just in Travancore, allopathic medicines and the concept of a well-defined public health system began to gain popularity in Cochin and British Malabar, the princely states that were later merged to form the state of Kerala after the independence, also during the period. .

According to historical records, the first medical institution to be established in Travancore under the state was the “Palace Dispensary” which opened during the reign of Lakshmi Bai.

The very first medical dispensary in Cochin was opened in Mattancherry in 1818, but modern medical facilities in Malabar, which were under the direct control of the British Collector, did not start until later, he said.

Travancore had 31 hospitals during the period 1884-85, according to ”Progress of Travancore” written by poet and historian Ulloor S Parameswara Aiyer was published by the State Department of Cultural Publications.

Veteran medical historian K Rajasekharan Nair said that as in other parts of India, traditional medical systems, especially Ayurveda and indigenous healing practices, were predominant in these princely states as well until what they spend under the rule of the British East India Company.

“The arrival of Europeans and the influence of Christian missionaries, particularly the London Missionary Society (LMS) helped modern medicines gain acceptance among the royals here and therefore among the common people over time” , he told PTI.

The epidemic of ”vasoori” (smallpox) had prompted the rulers of Travancore and Cochin to launch a vaccination wing in their kingdoms in the early 19th century.

“In fact, in Cochin, vaccination was introduced in 1802 itself and six trained vaccinators had been employed by the state since 1812. But it made no progress because people were terrified of vaccination,” he said. he declares.

Although Queen Lakshmi Bai of Travancore started the vaccination service with the support of the royal physician in the early 19th century, it took over six decades for one of her successors to issue a royal proclamation (1877-78) making vaccination compulsory for the public. servants, students, sick, convicts and advocates of the kingdom.

Travancore’s ‘charity dispensary’, where prisoners were the first to be treated, had been turned into a hospital in 1837 by King Swathi Thirunal, a versatile music composer.

King Uthram Thirunal, who was very interested in allopathy, even treated people on his own by opening “Elayaraja Dispensary” in the Fort area, says the book “Evolution of Modern Medicines in Kerala” written by Nair.

The Civil Hospital (current General Hospital here), which was opened in November 1865 by King Ayilyam Thirunal, can be said to be the first modern hospital in Kerala.

After the opening of the hospital, designed by British civil engineer Barton, the King said: “My wish is to provide good health care facilities to people in all sections. It is therefore the clear duty of the state to assist in this direction.” Although a maternity wing was also attached to this hospital from the beginning, Hindu caste women were reluctant to use this facility. and an exclusive women’s hospital was opened for them. later by the Zenana Mission, an Anglican missionary society, made a radical change in their attitude which prompted the royal rulers to create a similar one.

The Royal Family of Travancore also established a temporary lunatic asylum in 1879 which was later moved together with the Leprosy Hospital to Oolanpara, a few kilometers from the town.

The reign of King Sri Moolam Thirunal, who ruled the princely state from 1885 to 1924, was a flourishing time for modern medicine as several civilian hospitals and advanced facilities came into being during this time.

”Travancore’s first private institution was the one opened by the LMS in Neyoor (now Tamil Nadu). The number of institutions receiving a government grant at the end of 1915-16 was 12″, Ulloor said in his book.

Nair said: ‘Although Malabar was far behind Travancore and Cochin in terms of implementing the modern medical system in the early years, several significant changes occurred later. There was even a medical school in Calicut which was established at the end of the First World War.” Travancore became the first princely state in India to abolish quackery by a royal decree in 1943 and the Journal of Indian Medical Association even wrote an editorial. congratulating the government for its firmness.

Aditya Varma, a member of the royal family of Travancore, said that the last leader of Travancore, Sri Chithira Thirunal, was the one who merged the health department with that of public health.

”Malaria had gripped the state as an epidemic in 1935. The statewide malaria and filariasis survey launched by the government was said to have helped collect valuable data which has played a vital role in developing a comprehensive plan to combat this threat,” Varma told PTI.

At the height of the disease, King Chithira Thirunal and his mother even visited a treatment center in Neyyattinkara and touched them and interacted with them breaking existing customs to give them comfort and confidence, he said. .

On the well-equipped public health laboratory opened in the kingdom in 1937, he said, apart from top-notch research facilities, it has also provided outstanding services in the areas of diagnostic testing, examination bacteria and culture, vaccine production and anti-rabies treatment.

According to a government handbook published in 1958, there were 53 government hospitals and 198 dispensaries with a total number of beds of around 9340 in Kerala.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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