The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heart centre falls on hard times

Fifteen years after work began on restoring the 101-year-old Albert Victor Hospital, on the R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital campus, and after spending Rs 70 lakh to set up an institute for cardio-vascular sciences in the building, the government has thrown up its hands. It has run short of money.

Though Abhijit Banerjee, head of the department (cardiology), who had launched the project, tried to justify it, saying restoration costs much less than new construction, Calcutta’s medical circles asserted that the government should not have taken up the project if it did not have the means to complete it.

Banerjee said Bidhan Chandra Roy had treated patients in the hospital even a few days before his death. On their visit to the city in 1912, King George V and Queen Mary had donated Rs 5,000 to complete the Albert Victor Hospital, named after Queen Victoria’s grandson.

Fifteen years ago, Banerjee had saved it from demolition. He wanted to turn the hospital into an institute for cardiovascular sciences. But now Banerjee, who had passed out from R.G. Kar Medical College himself, is finding it extremely difficult to stop his dream project from being aborted. And all because there is no wherewithal.

“I have run from pillar to post for help. If stopping the PWD from demolishing the building was a victory for us, trying to generate funds for the new institute of cardiac sciences has been a very painful exercise,” he said.

After the government had allocated several lakhs to restore the building and ensure that its architectural grandeur was retained, Banerjee was informed that the government lacked the funds to continue with the project. “There have been times when I felt shattered. But I still thank the government for saving this building from demolition and also for constantly encouraging me to try and generate funds from independent sources for buying equipment to start work here,” says Banerjee.

His efforts to generate funds from abroad, too, met a dead-end. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles and several eminent British personalities thanked Banerjee for his “untiring efforts” in saving the structure. But at the same time, they made it clear they were in no position to help him financially.

That did not discourage Banerjee. He contacted several corporate houses in the city and abroad. But all his efforts were in vain. “I am still in touch with the state government. I hope we will finally be able to complete the project,” he added.

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