Intended for healthcare professionals


The red mixture

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 24 April 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:937
  1. Suresh Kumar Pathak, retired general practitioner, Romford
  1. skpathak137{at}

I was born and brought up in a small town near Agra in India. A small hospital, the Civil Hospital, served the 45 000-strong population of the town and surrounding rural area. The Civil Hospital had large grounds, used by the dhobiwalah (laundryman) to dry his washing and by the local lads to play cricket. In the early 1950s the hospital was well appointed and, as with many buildings constructed during the Raj, was quite imposing.

It had a central hall, which was the outpatient department. On one side was the surgical section, where a male nurse known as the “compounder” (etymology obscure) ran a small, very clean and airy room. He was kept busy dressing wounds, and was competent to do minor surgery. On the …

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