Naattu Vaidyans And Paatti Vaithiyams of The Bygone Era

People relied on home care and ‘naattu vaidyans’ (local practioners of medicine) for medical relief. The grannies were known for their paatti vaidyams. Sulukku padam (for relief from sprain), Thel kadi padam (for relief from the sting of a scorpion) etc., were quite popular. Eventually modern medicine took over. Of course traditional fields have always continued side by side. Ayurveda, Siddha etc., continued to offer solutions. Ramaswamy of Ikkarai Boluvampatti used to hold a number of manuscripts connected with medicine in his residence.
Modern Coimbatore turned towards allopathic medicine in the second quarter of the twentieth century. Allopathic practioners did exist earlier but in a very small way. Let us briefly look at the old medical facilities while going ahead to celebrate Coimbatore Day on 24/11/2019.
The Government Head Quarters Hospital on Trichy Road is the oldest big facility. The land was donated by the Naidus from of the Marthar family (A.G.Venkataswamy Naidu & A.G. Guruswamy Naidu Family) from Appinaickenpatti. The family used to own huge tracts of land those days. The hospital had a special TB Clinic with a provision for 30 beds and A.T.Devaraja Mudaliar had contributed much towards it. A leprosy clinic was also maintained and special departments functioned under specialists even by the year 1954. Those were times when 700 in patients and 1000 out patients used the facility. 350 plus beds were in place. 13 patd surgeons, 23 honourary surgeons, 2 nursing superintendents, 1 nursing tutor, 6 head nurses and 23 nurses used to attend to patients. The hospital was also an institution for training nurses, midwives, compounders and nursing orderlies. Facilities were provided for post graduate training in M.D and M.S in surgery. An expenditure of Rupees One Lakh was incurred for its maintainence those days. The District Medical Officer, Coimbatore used to function as the Superintendent of the hospital and as a Medical officer for the Central Jail in Coimbatore. Dr.S.Balasubramaniam had been the District Medical Officer in the year 1954.
G.Kuppuswamy Naidu Hospital for Women and Children came up in Pappanaicenpalayam. It had been built at a cost of Rs.14 lakhs on a 12 acre piece of land by the Lakshmi Mills family in the memory of its founder. G.Venkataswamy Naidu, G.K.Devarajulu, G.K.Sundaram, G.K.Govindaswamy (Mani) and G.K.Rajagopal hailed from this family. It had 142 beds within a short period. 80 was for the maternity section, 40 for gynaecology, 20 for kids and 2 spare ones. E.A.Thomas MBBS., MRCOG (London) and FRCS (Edinborough) was the Chief Medical Superintendent. They had treated 3109 maternity cases between 1952 and 1954.
The Coimbatore Tuberculosis Sanitorium on Avinashi Road was spread on about 25 acres. It was equipped with an X Ray Unit, Ultra Violet Rays (Therapy Plant) and other equipments which would alleviate hardships. It had a fully accomplished operation theatre for conducting operations like AP, PP, aspiration of fluid and air, thoroscopy and canterisation of adhesions and phrenic crushing. Dr.N.Jaganathan, the Founder had ensured that the sanitorium was recognised by the state and the central governments.
Moses Gnanabaranam Eye Hospital came up because of the munificence of M.G.Arogyaswami Pillai, a noted philanthropist. It was created in the year 1928 and its Podanur facility had 12 acres of land.
I.Pitchai Robert had been its Chief Medical Officer. The Podanur facility had 50 beds and 10 of them were intended for paying and 40 for non paying patients.
The Coimbatore centre treated in patients and accomodated 60 in patients. 2 doctors, 2 nurses, a compounder, 2 helpers and 4 ward attenders were at work in full swing.
The Telungupalayam Vaidyasala on Perur Road was always popular. This bone setting technique has been well recognised for centuries. There used to be a provision to treat 100 patients and it was free for the poor. V.Arjunan was the Chief. INTACH had recorded Telungupalayam Bone Setting as an exclusive feature of Coimbatore.
The Surgical Nursing Home in Tatabad was started in 1949 by the highly skilled Dr.T.V.Sivanandam who had trained over 60 surgeons in this region. It had a provision for 15 beds at the start. Dr.Sengalippan’s Nursing Home on Cross Cut Road was begun in 1951 and it had the facility to accomodate 40 beds. It was founded by Dr.Sengaliappan. This doctor was known for his low cost treatment and his descendants continue to stay that way. Dr.N.Jagananathan (Founder of the TB Sanitorium at Peelamedu ) had a Nursing Home on Jail Road and it had 15 beds. He used to treat TB patients. The Coimbatore Poly Clinic and Hospital (Iyer Hospital) was managed by Dr.C.S.Ramaswamy Iyer and he was very famous.
Ramakrishna Nursing Home in R.S.Puram had Dr.M.P.Pai MS., FRCS (London) as its Chief Physician.
Municipal General Dispensary (Raja Street), Sir Thyagarayar Dispensary (Devangapet), dispensaries in Pappanaickenpalayam, Ramanathapuram and Selvapuram, Sengottiah Ayurvedic Dispensary, Infecticious Diseases Hospital on Mettupalayam Road. In addition maternity homes in Raja Street, Jail Road, Selvapuram, Ramanathapuram and Krishnaswamy Mudaliar Road were serving the people.
The maternity homes had come up because of the donations from Asoka M.K.Krishna Chetty, T.V. Brothers Family, Family of Gokuldas Thulsidas. Arya Vaidyan P.V.Rama Varrier was also practising in Coimbatore.
A huge number of allopathic doctors were joined by the native physicians who were known for their noble intent. Mysore vaidyar was quite famous in the town. Native Indian tradition was preserved by them and today we call it ‘Alternate Medicine’.
A number of doctors used to visit patients at home and treat them with the aid of medicines and equipments.
Kids were delivered at home well into the fifties of the last century. The foundation laid by the old institutions, philanthropists and good doctors have put Coimbatore on the ‘Medical Tourism’ map of the world today.
We must remember that the hospitals and doctors were known for their charitable disposition. Service had been more important than money. It was ‘Service Above Self’.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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