Hindustan Times (Chandigarh)
No rebuild plan in place for Shimla’s Walker hospital gutted 20 years ago
SHIMLA:MORE than 20 years after a fire gutted Military Hospital, also known as the Walker Hospital, in the city in December 1998, the Indian Army, which decided to take over the rebuilding, has just erected the structure (facade) of the institution.
The initial money required to rebuild the hospital was ₹26 crore, but nothing happened and the project got delayed.
Today, the structure stands desolate, a mere 2km from the Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC); initially, Walker Hospital was meant to cater to European citizens, as it dates back to the British era.
“The army faced paucity of funds and consequently the builder stopped construction. There were other issues as well,” said Major Rajiv Singh, garrison engineer, responsible for the Civil Works Engineering wing of the army.
He added, “We have sought more funds from the Central government. Only then will construction work on the building gather pace.”
Now, the army has sought at least ₹200 crore for the construction of the 100-bed hospital.
The army claims that it will ensure that the hospital offers facilities of super-specialists. In addition to catering to the army and the ex-servicemen, it would also provide medical services to patients referred from other hospitals.
STATE GOVT MOOTS PROPOSAL FOR TAKEOVER
Meanwhile, the long delay in construction has meant that the Himachal Pradesh government has mooted a proposal to take over the hospital.
The government is keen to shift additional medical blocks from the IGMC to the Walker Hospital. So far, however, the army says it has not received any such proposal.
“The matter of handing over the Walker Hospital to the government can only be discussed after we receive a formal letter,” said an official, adding that they had not received any communication from the defence ministry.
A group of retired army officers had recently met the army top brass in Shimla and opposed the move of handing over the hospital to the state government. “We want that the army should run the hospital on its own,” said Brigadier Dalip Singh Chajta, veteran of armed forces medical services.
“Military hospital Shimla is the only service hospital for the serving and retired armed forces personnel from the district Shimla, Kinnaur and part of Sirmaur, Solan, Kullu and Manali district. The state government of Himachal Pradesh has forwarded a proposal to take over the building as part of IGMC Shimla. This exposes insensitivity and hypocrisy of the state government towards serving and retired personnel from the armed forces,” Chajta said.