Cuttack was a major stop for the pilgrims of the Old Jagannath Sadak. The annual influx preceding the Rath Yatra saw hordes of pilgrims, many of whom were suffering from some sickness. After developing the road, the Marathas had set up dispensaries all along the way where sick pilgrims were given traditional medicines. The pilgrims were often stricken with malaria, cholera and other diseases brought upon by insanitary conditions and unclean drinking water. Many of the pilgrims were old and infirm, and needed medical attention.
The first dispensary was set up in the 1780 in the place where the present Anatomy department is located. Native practitioners, called Kaviraj or Vaidyas, practised medicine according to the rules laid down in the ancient texts. They used plants, herbs, minerals and different body parts of birds and animals as medicines.
The British domination over Odisha began in 1803 and brought changes in the political, economic and social environment of the region. The British faced health problem as the climate of Odisha was different from other parts of British India. Many of them suffered from Smallpox, Cholera, Malaria and Diarrhoea. They realised the importance of the dispensary and converted it into a small hospital. Regular financial assistance was made available and the hospital ran smoothly for years thereafter. The Englishmen who were placed in different parts of the state would come for treatment to Cuttack. There are various accounts of seafarers and mariners who were taken to the Cuttack Hospital when they fell sick.
After the Great Famine of 1866,the recommendations of the Famine Commission Report forced the rulers to undertake major development work like digging canals, building roads and bringing the railway in order to improve the communication links. Dr. Stewart, the Civil Surgeon at Cuttack mooted the idea of a Medical School, using the hospital as a nucleus. He got the support of the Lt. Governor Sir Richard Temple and the Divisional Commissioner T.E Ravenshaw and the Orissa Medical School was born in 1875. It trained locals as Licentiate Medical Practitioners (LMP). The British soon introduced the so called modern medicines that were making a breakthrough in England and the Continent.
The Medical School was spread over an area of 90 acres most of which was swampy on the riverside. The land was reclaimed and the structures were made in a gradual manner. Most of the old buildings were of the Indo-Saracenic style. The buildings were done up in a majestic style with colonnades andpillars. These were among the first buildings that were built in conformance to advanced British structural engineering standards of the 1800s, which came to include infrastructures composed of iron, steel, wooden beams and poured concrete.
When Odisha became a separate State on linguistic grounds in 1936, there were hardly any educational institutes. Prime Minister Biswanath Das took office in June 1937 and started establishing schools and colleges. In 1943, Maharaja Krushna Chandra Gajapati Narayan Deb took over and constituted a committee, headed by Pandit Nilakantha Das, for the development of education in the State. The establishment of Utkal University in 1943 heralded a subsequent period of hectic educational proliferation and Odisha got seven more colleges including a Medical College.
Major A. T. Anderson who happened to be the Principal of the Orissa Medical School and the Civil Surgeon of Cuttack, urged to upgrade the existing medical school to a College. The Maharaja’s council of ministers in general and Pt. Godavarish Mishra in particular worked assiduously to prevail upon the Medical Council of India, as a result of which, the Orissa Medical College was born on the 1st of June 1944, admitting the first batch of 22 students into the M.B.B.S. Degree course. As post war Britain did not have the finances, the benevolent Maharaja of Mayurbhanj, Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo made a generous grant and funded the setting up of the new college. For this gesture, the Government of Odisha renamed the Orissa Medical College as S.C.B.Medical College in the year 1951.
Today, almost all the old structures have been demolished for making newer buildings. Only a few like the present X-Ray and Pathology departments remain the original bold structures. The small Post office at the rear of the Pathology building is the last remaining original structure of the Old Hospital. Unfortunately, most of the old instruments, equipment, laboratories, and machinery have been destroyed. The library has many rare volumes that should be properly preserved. Very few vestiges of the old times remain. There are plans to demolish some of the old buildings and make towers for increased capacity. The College should be preserved as it is one of the oldest hospitals and medical colleges of the country with a lot of heritage value.