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Christopher Benninger designs Sassoon hospital plan; state nods to allocate Rs 100 cr for initial phase

RENOWNED ARCHITECT Christopher Benninger, a resident of Pune, has designed a master plan for the state-run Sassoon General Hospital.

The ambitious Rs 700-crore plan has been submitted to the state with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar agreeing to initially allocate Rs 100 crore for phase-wise implementation beginning with construction of hostels for postgraduate doctors and nurses.

“A master plan for the next 100 years to develop Sassoon General Hospital has been designed by the renowned architect and he agreed to our request on a pro bono (for the public good) basis. It took three months to design the master plan, which has been submitted to the state,” S Chockalingam, administrator at Sassoon General Hospital told The Indian Express.

“We are looking at the next 100 years of the development of the hospital as an investment in health and this also includes increasing the capacity by another 1,000 beds,” he added.

While Pune’s Mahindra United World College of India has been among the master architect’s award-winning projects, Benninger’s firm has also been involved in projects, including Azim Premji University at Bengaluru, IIT Hyderabad, heritage campus of College of Engineering Pune and Pune University.

While Benninger has taken up the work at hospitals like KEM in Pune and a 200-bed facility at Life Care in Latur, he said it was an opportunity for him as an architect to contribute to the healthcare system during the pandemic. “This is the largest public hospital and important healthcare facility in western Maharashtra. Not many can afford private hospitals and hence, this is a critical care facility,” he said.

Sassoon General Hospital is one of the oldest hospitals in India, which started in 1860s and post Independence, it witnessed a lot of ad hoc construction. “We did an audit of 1.9 million square feet of construction across six plots, identified the heritage buildings which need to be preserved and others that can be upgraded and some that can be demolished. We have planned a phase-wise construction over the next 10 years. The campus has heritage buildings like the David Sassoon Hospital building (built in 1869) as well as the Jacob Sassoon Hospital building (built in 1905). The plan envisages highrises to house doctors across the street connected with an underpass, new women’s residential enclave, hostels for nurses, paramedics and a 1,500-seater auditorium apart from a new sports facility,” Benninger said.

The aim is to create a global centre of excellence in healthcare, health education and advanced health research.

According to the master plan, there is a need to zone the campus that is composed of seven land parcels, into a functional area that creates efficiency of operation and maintenance.

The phase-wise plan is to integrate the separate land parcels into a symbiotic walkable campus employing walkways, over and under road pedestrian tunnels and bridges and promenades. There is a need to create a rational and logical movement system of patients, healthcare workers, utility/maintenance vehicles and emergency vehicles according to the plan, which will also develop more parking spaces and remove obsolete structures.

The plan involved vertical construction of the buildings. Special efforts have been planned to design ramp structures in the case of a fire. The plan also includes creating emergency (fire-fighting) access and corridors.

Presently, the 1296-bed hospital has a total area of 43 acres but in various locations, Chockalingam said. The focus initially of this master plan is to build hostel facilities for PG medical students/doctors and nurses/students.

“The master plan has been discussed with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who said the proposal to construct the hospitals will be immediately considered,” Chockalingam said.

Presently, the PG medical students are staying in hostel in the main hospital building. The College of Engineering Pune’s Professor Bhalchandra Mirajdar and others have also supported the hospital authorities’ efforts to request Benninger to design the master plan.

“Benninger has been associated with CoEP for the past 15 years, and he readily accepted our request to help design Sassoon General Hospital on a pro bono basis,” Professor Mirajdar said.

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