Medical support for the fighting force at sea forms an integral facet of maritime war-waging capability. The Naval Hospital at Colaba, INHS Asvini has been striving to fulfil this important responsibility over the last 250 years. In fact, the prefix INHS, ‘Indian Naval Hospital Ship’ itself symbolises its raison-de-etrè, of providing world-class medical support to the Navy’s fighting end, viz, the ships submarines and aircraft at sea.
In 1756, the ‘Kings Seamen Hospital’ was established on the then Old Woman’s Island (Colaba) for British troops. In 1863, subsequent to the creation of the Bombay Marines, the hospital was handed over to the Army and re-named ‘Military Hospital Colaba’. After India attained independence, MH Colaba was commissioned as ‘INHS Asvini’ on 18 Sep 51, as the first shore hospital of the Indian Navy. In 1977, it was accorded the status of a Command Hospital.
Asvini has grown both in capacity and technological facilities. The initial bed strength of 300 gradually increased over the years to 825 with 18 departments, 20 sub-speciality centre and 36 wards. Keeping pace with the advances in medical technology, the naval hospital has constantly up-graded its critical facilities.
The hospital has various high-end facilities like Cardiac Cath Lab, Digital Subtraction Angiography, Reverse Osmosis Plant for dialysis patients, CT and MRI machines. The hospital also undertakes renal transplants, cardiac, orthopaedics and Onco surgeries. Asvini is the referral centre for the serving personnel of the zone and for the ex-servicemen and families settled in Western and South-West India.
The hospital also provides medical services to over three lakh dependents of service personnel in the station. Notwithstanding the large quantum of workload, patient satisfaction surveys are conducted periodically towards identifying problem areas in patient care delivery and improving the quality of medical care.
The activities at the hospital are ultimately aimed at ensuring sustained availability of medical support and healthcare to personnel at the fighting edge. To this end, it has been the endeavour of the staff at Asvini to constantly improve their reach and capability to provide succour to the sea warriors irrespective of their remoteness from the base port.
Be it the evacuation of the patients from ships at sea by helicopter or treatment of severe burns and inhalational injuries of patients on board, the hospital staff is equipped with the best state of the art facilities to handle a variety of emergencies. Taking a cue from the advances in the field of IT, telemedicine facilities have been set up for reaching out to units deployed at sea. This means the doctor on board can be in real-time communication with super specialists at the hospital, thus ensuring timely and accurate medical treatment.
During Op-Rahat in Yemen disaster response/ relief and medical management services were provided by the medical teams deputed by the hospital. Asvini teams were also deployed for Flood Relief in Jammu and Kashmir and Rescue and Relief missions in Nepal earthquake. Many Blood Donation camps are organized at the hospital Blood Bank regularly. As a part of Outreach Activities, Regular lectures/ workshops/ capsule courses were conducted for health education of Naval Community at Mumbai and other Naval Stations of the command.
Over the years, the hospital has also strived to emerge as a centre for academic excellence in the field of medicine. The vibrant Post Graduate training programme has added to its academic lustre. It is an institute of eminence where tradition and competence blend to provide excellence in medical care. Currently, the hospital is involved in 79 research projects. Specialist medical officers in all the disciplines actively participate in national level conferences held all over India and present scientific papers.
With the assurance to its beneficiaries that this world-class hospital provides, Asvini continues to be a force multiplier of the Western Naval Command.