June 12, 2021
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Himachal To Use British-Era Army Hospital As Covid Care Centre

The hospital, gutted in a major fire in 1999, was refurbished but remained unused

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Himachal To Use British-Era Army Hospital As Covid Care Centre
A file photo of Walkers' hospital before it was gutted in a fire in 1999.
S N Joshi
Himachal To Use British-Era Army Hospital As Covid Care Centre

The landmark British-era Walker hospital ---an army property which was gutted in a devastating fire in 1999 and could not be operationalised even after its complete reconstruction---will now serve as Covid care centre in Shimla.  

As part of the massive efforts to boost Covid care facilities in the capital city, which is witnessing shortage of beds and over-exhausted health care infrastructure, this refurbished and revamped 1902 property will add at least another 100 beds for Covid patients. From 1954 to 1990, Walker hospital had served as the biggest facility for the army personnel and their families.  

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who visited the hospital and held discussions with Lt. General Raj Shukla of the Army Training Command (ARTRAC), said he was hopeful that Walker hospital and a few other major properties will help boost preparations for future emergencies in Shimla and  adjoining districts . 

Deputy Commissioner Shimla Aditya Negi had written to the army authorities a few  days seeking to use the newly built hospital infrastructure as a Covid facility, and the army agreed in principle.  

On December 22, 1999, Walker hospital was reduced to ashes in one of the most devastating winter fires in Shimla. Though the army had reconstructed the building and created the necessary facilities, it remained closed.  

Beside Walker Hospital, Chief Minister also inspected Indus hospital—a mega private hospital on Jakhu Road, which was closed down by its promoters a few years ago. Attempts by the earlier Congress-led state government to purchase the property and set-up a multi-crore trauma centre as part of the Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC) hospital failed. 

Due to grim Covid situation, the government initiated fresh talks with Dr Balak Ram Verma, who had set-up a trust to run the hospital and expressed a desire to sell the property. Dr Verma also met the Chief Minister earlier today. The  IGMC has also taken steps to increase the  bed capacity up to 220 in view of massive pressure on the facilities at the Covid care ward. For this a new OPD block is seen as the biggest hope, as the building has nine floors. 

Meanwhile, the HP Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Commission has also started exploring possibilities of creating additional space for micro -Covid and  quarantine centres at the hostels of the private universities ,which are already closed due to Covid spike in the state . 

Around 10 such private universities and a private medical college in Solan district  have agreed to provide the space on a voluntary basis for the Covid patients. 

 “Our university is located outside the town and has sufficient accommodation to offer to the government as a quarantine and Covid care facility or whatever use they prefer,” said Acting Vice-Chancellor of APG Shimla university Dr Ramesh Chauhan. “This is a crisis situation and everyone needs to volunteer for help.”  

Earlier in the day Chief Minister Thakur again ruled out imposing lockdown or night curfew in the state but declared that the people, who were not following the restrictions, especially in case of marriages, will be dealt with sternly 

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