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NITOR is the fruit of liberation war. We proudly remember the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman. We recall with gratitude the sacrifices of our brave freedom fighters and people in general for giving their lives for the independence of Bangladesh because their sacrifice is the encouragement of our Endeavour.
With the war of liberation, the new nation of Bangladesh was left with a great number of war injured. Although a few of the freedom fighters from among the wounded were taken by foreign countries for treatment, the great bulk of the wounded including the civilians had to be taken care of by the new nation itself.
The task in sight was not only the freedom fighters but also a huge number of war victims in the general population. At that moment Dhaka medical college hospital was the only place where some help could be organized. So it was obvious that freedom fighters along with the war affected civilians started pouring in from all over the country mainly into the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, which was already full of such patients. Along with the problem of accommodation, there were shortage of drugs, equipment and dearth of the qualified Orthopaedic surgeons capable of handling these difficult cases. Such was the circumstances all over the country. The problem were indeed immense and beyond the capabilities of a war torn new nation.
It is noteworthy to mention the visit of Mr. J.N. Wilson, FRCS a renowned British Orthopaedic surgeon in early 1972 who was to examine and ascertain the exact volume and type of help required and the possible ways the British Government could help.
In February 1972, Prof. R.J. Garst, American Orthopaedic Surgeon, Specialist in the field of Rehabilitation along with his wife Marie M. Garst visited Bangladesh and assessed the problem as a whole and decided to go ahead towards its solution.
During our Liberation war in 1971, he was serving the distressed humanity at Ludhiana Christian Medical College in India. He was deeply moved to see the sufferings of the freedom fighters. He visited the war camps and began treating war-injured freedom fighters, many of them disabled by their wounds. His noble gesture drew the attention of the then special envoy of Bangladesh Government in exile, Justice Abu Syeed Chowdhury. In the meantime, Bangladesh became an independent state and Justice Chowdhury invited Dr. Garst to visit Bangladesh. Garst's affection for war-wounded freedom fighters brought him to Bangladesh on February 28, 1972 accompanied by his wife Maric Grast.
Patronized by the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman, Dr. Garst planned to establish an orthopaedic hospital to accommodate all the war affected in one place which the government gladly agreed. Within three month of his arrival his relentless effort lead to the establishment of the hospital, which was then popularly known as MUKTI BAHINI HOSPITAL.
In May 1972 the out patient building of the Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital was converted into an inpatient hospital with necessary modification and alteration. This was the establishment of independent trauma management unit in Bangladesh and sowing of the seed of subspecialty called ORTHOPAEDICS.
There were 100 beds which were filled up immediately and at the end of the second month of the institution the bed strength was 150. All were full and patients were pouring in. Then he along with his newly trained orthopaedic surgeon surveyed the country and their appropriate action lead to the management of war victims at the army cantonments and district hospital. Within eight months majority of the war victims received their treatment and were rehabilitated. By 1973 it was possible to open the facility to the non war victims and another 100 beds were added for woman and children.
By July 1973 the bed strength was 250 and major expense was borne by the government. Every vacant space corridor was converted into wards. By the end of 1973 the bed strength became 325 with 75 beds for casualty with 24 hour emergency service and a full fledged limb and brace center. This rapid growth was not enough to embark upon the large number of trauma patients and their subsequent rehabilitation It became obvious that in order to meet the enormous demand for treatment of the physically handicapped, the establishment of a separate Orthopaedic and Traumatology Hospital with adequately trained doctors and specialist was essential. Meanwhile with full co-operation of senior surgeons in the country and the Ministry of Health, a plan was prepared to meet up all the requirements by the Overseas Development, UK. The plan was passed by the authority in due time. Subsequently the overseas orthopaedic surgeons started to arrive in the country under the auspices of the Overseas Development UK. Other orthopaedic surgeons of different parts of the world started visiting the Hospital and take part in the treatment of patients and training of local doctors. All of these measures made the total programme a unique one.
On 5th January, 1973 the faculty of medicine of Dhaka University acted on suggestion and appointed a committee to inspect the Shahid Suhrawardy hospital as an acceptable place for establishing a post graduate course in orthopaedic. When the finding were presented to the faculty of medicine on 15th March, 1973 it was recommended that the Master of Surgery be started at Shahid Suharwardy hospital. Subsequent necessary formal approvals and recommendations by the various bodies of the University came as follows:
June 1973: Faculty of Medicine, University of Dhaka, approved Shahid Suharwardy hospital for initiating the course for Master of Surgery.
September 1973: Post Graduate Faculty of Medicine and Research approved the programme for granting the Diploma in Orthopaedic Surgery.
September 1973: The Academic Council, University of Dhaka, approved the recommendations of the Faculty of Medicine regarding the degree course and recommended this to the syndicate.
October 1973: The Syndicate approved the programme and instructed that the course should be administered under the Faculty of Post Graduate Medicine and Research.
December 1973: Faculty of Post Graduate Medicine and Research approved the syllabus for the course..
Thus it was the full-fledged course for granting the Master of Surgery in Orthopaedic and Diploma in Orthopaedic. The M.S (Orthopaedic) course was the very first Medical post Graduate Degree course of its kind in Bangladesh.
By 1976 nine doctors (five MS and four D Orth.) had completed their orthopaedic courses and thus a new group of specialist in the subject started their career. Twelve physiotherapists and three occupational therapists graduated with BSc degrees. Twelve graduate nurses completed one year training in orthopaedic nursing. Twenty-six young men had been trained in a tree-year course of artificial limb and brace making. Thus the year 1976 was the year of grand achievement of Orthopaedic Surgery in Bangladesh.
Prof. R.J. Grast realized the need for the hospital having its own building and approached the authority concern, the results of which is the present hospital complex and was shifted to this new site in early 1978. This is the biggest orthopaedic hospital in the south Asia having 500 beds. It was then named Rehabilitation institute and hospital for the disabled (RIHD).
In 1974 the NEC of Bangladesh approved the plans of RIHD and Dr. R.J. Garst was honoured with the post of Project Director of the proposed hospitalcomplex. Dr. Garst was honoured with a salary of Taka one, equivalent to 7 cents
Dr. Wahidur Rahman
Asst. Prof. of Orthopaedic
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare