The administration of the 88-year-old Bai Jerbai Wadia hospital, a grade II-B heritage structure, has been facing difficulty in renovation and expansion of the hospital owing to stringent heritage structure rules in the city. The need for strict preservation of heritage structures in the city has taken a toll on improving the healthcare facilities in the Parel-based hospital, that has been planning a revamp for three years.
As per a proposal sent by the 600-bed charitable hospital to the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) in 2012, a request was made to downgrade the heritage category under which the hospital currently stands.
“We have requested to change our grade to III from II-B so that major modifications in the building can be made possible without much difficulties. Currently, even for minor changes we need to run to the MHCC for approval which becomes tedious,” a source from the hospital’s administration said. A decision to that effect has still not been taken, the source added.
The hospital’s two buildings — Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital and Jerbai Wadia Children’s hospital — were built in 1926 and in 1929 respectively in Victorian architectural style. Since 2010, the 300-bed children’s hospital has been shifted to the 300-bed maternity hospital after it reflected a dire need for repair work.
Both the hospitals are now functioning in the 88-year-old maternity home. With its high ceilings, domes and a massive facade, the children’s hospital creates an imposing picture. The hospital is now hoping to preserve the exterior by making changes only internally. A medical officer from the hospital said, “We are planning to start a renal implant center and of expanding the cardiac facilities. For that, major changes will be required in the children’s hospital. Unless we don’t get a nod from MHCC, the centers cannot start.”
The hospital plans to establish a catheterization (cath) laboratory which will require permission from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). “AERB will approve only if the necessary infrastructure is available. We are still waiting for MHCC’s approval,” the official said.
Heritage Grade II-B comprises of buildings and precincts of regional or local importance possessing architectural, cultural or historic significance though lower than Heritage Grade I. While internal changes in the Grade II-B buildings can be made along with extension of the building, the plan has to be under the heritage committee’s strict scrutiny.
In Grade III structures, scope of expansion or modification of internal structure is greater. “Even KEM hospital got the permissions for expansion. I am sure, if Wadia hospital’s demands are adequate, they will be allowed to renovate too,” MHCC chairman V Ranganathan said,
He, however, added that the decision to change the grade does not lie within MHCC’s powers. “A public hearing by the heritage review committee is done for changing the grade. The final decision lies with the state government if at all they want to change the heritage grade,” Ranganathan said.
According to sources, a meeting with the MHCC will be held soon to discuss the expansion plans. “The meeting is also to know hospital’s reasons for demanding a change in grade,” the source said. “It is less costly to expand a normal hospital. For a heritage structure, the cost of maintenance gets very high,” another administrative officer at the hospital said. According to the officer, the building is very old and and it is hard to say whether it will sustain vibrations of heavy machines. Wadia hospital is currently in the process of adding 20 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) beds within a month. It also plans to expand the 75 NICU beds to 150 if expansion plans remain on track.