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category: General, Blog

07 April 2023

Memories Of The First Ent Hospital

My wife and myself came back to Mauritius in December 1974 after completing our medical studies. We joined the SSRN Hospital in March 1975 and were warmly greeted by senior colleagues like Dr Gopee, Dr Sewraz and Dr Ragavoodoo senior. In the Doctors Mess, we came across Dr Prayag, an ENT Specialist based at that Hospital. We understood that ENT services were provided at regional levels, mostly Pamplemousses, Civil Hospital at Port Louis and at Candos Hospital.

At that time, half a decade after Independence, the British Garrisson were leaving Mauritius, and their Quarters at Vacoas. Every building and infrastructure were being handed to the Special Mobile Force. A question without answer was what to do with the General Hospital located in the midst of security based infrastructure. The then flamboyant Minister of Health, Mr. Harold Walter, convinced people that the Hospital be handed over to his Ministry. What next? Every influential Consultant was canvassing to take possession of the Hospital, namely  Orthopaedic and Paediatric, among so many others. The then Advisor to the Minister, Dr Vel Pillay, an Ophthalmic Consultant, realized the necessity of transforming it to an ENT Hospital. This transition was being done in 1976/1977 and the handing over of this hospital to the ENT Unit was done soon after. At that time, Dr Dawood Hansrod was coming for sessions to  SSRN Hospital.  The Administration was handed over to Victoria Hospital, and Dr Osman, an ENT Surgeon was the Superintendent and overall responsible for the running of both Victoria and the ENT Hospital.

At that time, Dr Osman convinced me to get transferred to ENT Hospital, and already knowing Dr Hansrod at SSRNH, I took the plunge and joined ENT Hospital in Vacoas. The Hospital was a royal imposing building of wood and stone, reminding me of the Royal College Curepipe where I studied. There was a stone wall by the road, a huge gate with a sentry post at the entrance, a single building nearby, a cluster of three buildings joined with one another but separate from the first one.

The first building consisted of a Specialist consultation room, with an adjoining one for the Medical Health Officer, a small minor outpatient surgical room, a records office for attending patients, a Dental setup, a non-functioning laboratory, and a records to collect the files of patients. On the first floor, there was a room for the nursing supervisor, a room for the Medical Superintendent, an office for the Administrator, and the administrative cadre.

On the second building, the floor area consisted of a small pharmacy, the Doctors Mess and resting room for them during night duty and a kitchen with adjoining servants mess. On the first floor, there was the female ward, an almost private room and an examination room in between. Just opposite that was the main Operating theatre, a minor Operating Theatre, an attached Doctors Mess ,and a nursing station. On the third building, there was an Occupational Physiotherapy department, and above was the male ward. A nurses mess was just opposite the male ward. The fourth building was housing the Archives under the Prime Minister’s Office, with well protected documents, the above part used for drug addicts, and an imposing Conference Room used for multiple purposes.

There were two Consultants at that time, Dr Kapil Madhoo and Dr Dawood Hansrod, the former being the Consultant in charge. Dr S.Prayag was a confirmed ENT Specialist. They were having a Specialist OPD on different days and operating their patients in the Operation theatres, major and minor. There was a visiting Anaesthetist attending in the morning to give General Anaesthesia, and for emergencies. The ENT Specialist and Consultants were also attending to patients at SSRNH and Civil Hospital. Three Medical and Health Officers were attending the ENT Specialists during the day and accompanying them for out-stations, other than covering for night duties. I was one of the privileged one. Dr Osman, the Medical Superintendent and an ENT Specialist was having one session of OPD and Operation per week. Dr Osman also used to pass by every night at 8.00 p.m. to have a chat with the Medical Officer on call and then to proceed to Victoria Hospital, specially the casualty department, for supervision and any help required. Prior to these arrangements, Dr Madhoo used to go around the country and hospitals with his instruments in the car, and the previous Medical Health Officers used to take call from home like Dr Curpen.

There was no radiological set up in the ENT hospital at the beginning, and no drug could be issued after 4.00 p.m. Only referred cases from other hospitals could be attended to during night duty. The initial set up underwent many changes with time, and new developments led to an improved service to the patients. Dr Abelak and myself worked as Medical Health Officers foe quite a long time, and we decided to go for specialization in ENT. Dr Chooneeah was already on a Scholarship for specialization. Dr Abelak came back as a Specialist in 1982, followed by Dr Chooneeah, and myself in 1983. Meanwhile, Dr Ng Kee Kwong came to Mauritius, but then proceeded to Saudi Arabia. We were later joined by Dr  Dookharam, Dr Naga and Dr Purmessur. The list of Specialists continued to increase with Dr Ramyead, Dr Ragavoodoo, Dr  Earally, Dr Lutchmun, Dr  Deonarain, Dr  Gobin, Dr  Ramnath, Dr  Samjhu,Dr Naga, Dr Rughoobur, Dr  Domah and Dr Thungavelloo.

Dr Madhoo retired a few years after I joined as Specialist, and Dr Hansrod a few years later after Dr Madhoo. Dr Prayag was nominated as the next Consultant in Charge, to be followed by Dr Abelak, Dr Ng, Dr Dookharam and now with Dr Ramyead supported br Dr Ragavoodoo. Dr Naga and myself are not in the list ,as we left the services in 1992 to devote ourselves fully to private practice. I joined again in 2000 as an advisor to the Ministry and to function as a Specialist in Ent. I continued as same for a decade and more.

The Dental Unit was an integral part of the ENT Hospital. Dr R.Sonah and Dr Baguant have been among the first to look after that department. Dr Sonah and myself left for specialization at same time in 1979. He came back to Mauritius in 1982 as a Maxillo-facial surgeon, and established the Maxillo-facial surgery department in Mauritius. He continued practicing by our side till his retirement.

As the patients were facing difficulty to proceed to Victoria Hospital for radiological investigations, an x-ray equipment was installed at ENT Hospital, and x-ray could be performed on site. Later, the pharmacy was opened on a 24-hours basis. The referral system for patients was abolished, and it became an open hospital—any patient suffering from an ENT problem could attend the hospital on his own. An Audiology and speech therapy department was introduced to perform basic audiological tests, followed by tympanometry and evoked response audiometry. Many equipment for examination of patients were introduced, in addition to specialized equipment for operative purposes. With the advent of new specialists with newer techniques, the level of surgical practice attained a new dimension. Professors from abroad started coming to operate on difficult cases and to train our staff further resulting to a better understanding of pathologies and surgical performance.

A further achievement of the ENT Hospital has been its performance in the training of medical students in Mauritius. Since the opening of the first Medical College in Mauritius in 2000, all the students have attended this Hospital for their ENT clinical training. Furthermore, it has been the only hospital where all the specialists working there have participated in the training. They have also participated in performing as examiners for the different examinations, including university examinations. I am coordinating for their training in ENT for the last twenty years.

We were worried when we learnt that the ENT Hospital will be transferred to another place. Ultimately, wisdom prevailed and it was decided to build a new ENT Hospital at the same site. We will miss our old and first ENT Hospital in Mauritius, but the memories of the time spent there will always remain fresh in our mind. The beautiful episodes of our lives spent there will always be cherished. We take this opportunity to thank all those involved in our beautiful journey at the old ENT Hospital at Vacoas.  

Dr Dawood Oaris

Professor Emeritus,
SSR Medical College.