LAHORE, Nov 27: Punjab government is all set to ‘sacrifice’ buildings of two old medical institutions – Lady Willingdon Hospital and The de’Montmorency College of Dentistry - having around 80-year perspective, to ‘clear the view’ of three monuments – the Badshahi Mosque, the Lahore Fort and the Minar-i-Pakistan, it is learnt.
The decision to demolish buildings of these institutions was taken in the light of a ‘Master Plan’ introduced in 1984 by the then Punjab governor Lt-Gen Ghulam Jilani Khan (Late) to restore the beauty of Walled City’s monuments, an official close to the development told Dawn.
Interestingly, the heads of the medical institutions concerned were not taken into confidence before taking an initiative in this regard.
The official seeking anonymity said that apparently the proposal was in continuity of a recently-held meeting headed by Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif to review various ongoing and new projects in the Walled City limits and also those mentioned in Gen Jilani’s ‘Master Plan’.
The establishment of a proposed Food Street near the Lahore Fort was also discussed at the meeting.
The ‘Master Plan’ had identified the two medical institutions as ‘encroachments’, besides recommending demolition of the city’s largest Badami Bagh bus stand and dozens of commercial and residential buildings of Shahi Mohalla, the official said.
He said initially 32-kanal land, located near Badami Bagh bus stand and owned by Food Department, had been marked for the shifting of Lady Willingdon Hospital, currently spreading over an area of 104 Kanals with a covered area of 193,489 square-feet.
Pointing out an inherent flaw in the plan, he said as the new site for the hospital was located near railway tracks, the strong vibrations might cause damage to the sensitive medical equipment, besides causing disturbance to the patients, if the proposal was executed.
Similarly, the de’Montmorency College of Dentistry, along with Punjab Dental Hospital, will be shifted to Jubli Town.
The foundation stone of Lady Willingdon Hospital, one of the largest gynecology facilities was laid in 1933 by Col (retired) SN Hayees who was also the first medical superintendent of the health facility.
Sir Geoffery Fritzharvey de’Montmorency, the then Punjab governor, founded the de’Montmorency College of Dentistry, located on Fort Road, in 1929 and the Punjab Dental Hospital started functioning there in April, 1930.
The buildings of the two institutions were facing an immediate threat of ‘elimination’ as a categorical message has been conveyed to their administrations a few days back in this regard.
The Lady Willingdon Hospital recently got attention worldwide when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered aid to upgrade it during her visit to Pakistan some five months ago. But the offer was turned down by the Punjab government, the official said.
Health Department last Friday directed the KEMU Vice-chancellor Prof Dr Asad Aslam, Mayo Hospital MS Dr Zahid Pervez, Lady Willingdon Hospital MS Dr Muhammad Afzal and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital MS Dr Ijaz Sheikh to prepare a feasibility report for a new 350-bed maternity hospital as an alternate arrangement for the patients visiting Lady Willingdon Hospital. They were also asked to prepare a PC-I for the construction of new hospital.
Prof Asad Aslam, Dr Zahid Pervez and Dr Ijaz Sheikh confirmed the development when this scribe contacted them by phone.
The KEMU vice-chancellor said he had received verbal instructions to prepare a feasibility report for a 350-bed maternity hospital to be constructed in Badami Bagh area.
The Punjab government had recently released Rs100 million funds for completion of an under-construction ‘new campus’ for the college at Jubli Town, college Principal Prof Dr Sohail Abbas said.
The decision may spark agitation by medical community as was witnessed in the past when an attempt was made to implement the ‘Master Plan’.
Health special secretary Dawood Khan Bareach confirmed that heads of some institutions were asked to prepare the hospital’s feasibility report but refused to give further details.