Dr. Jack Preger
The clinic stretched along the outer wall of the Presbytery.
The clinic treated as many as 500 patients a day, operating six days a week for fourteen years. When numbers eventually exceeded resources, Jack opened a second clinic on the river bank at Nimtala Ghat which eventually had to close due to Mafia pressure. There is however an established Calcutta Rescue clinic operating at that location today, one of four in the city.
Jack's consultation 'centre' Medical records 'department' adjoined this, with patients' files stored in metal boxes. Medical examinations of a personal nature were conducted behind sheets of cloth.
Local doctors assisted Jack for small amounts, often for free. Overland backpackers stopped travelling,
often for months, to help. Many were British nurses. The large metal boxes stored medical records.
During this time, he was threatened by street Mafia groups demanding protection money, and harassed by local authorities regarding his residential visa and immigration status, which at one stage had him imprisoned in Alipore Jail. His case dragged on for years until he was finally successful in registering Calcutta Rescue as an official body, whose vital work carries on to this day. A description of its operations follows on the next page.
The Medical Records Department
Many patients were treated for leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease
During the Middleton Row years, Jack received numerous visits from medical doctors intrigued by what he was doing. Many stopped to help out, others sent much-needed medical supplies and surgical instruments when they got home. One of these was Dr. Jim Withers from Pittsburgh, in the United States. Withers was deeply impressed by the concept, and on his return to the US, he pioneered his own version of street medicine catering to the homeless people in his own city. The nucleus of this expanded to give birth to the Street Medicine Institute, which now operates in 15 countries and many major cities around the world -- thanks to Jack Preger's example.
Kolkata's rickshaw 'drivers' struggle to make a living, often running barefoot in torrid heat,
and breathing polluted air. Many became Jack's patients
I've met many people who've faced opposition in their efforts to help others, but no one who's been as systematically harassed as Jack Preger. Fortunately he's really tough – truly a soldier for the good"
Editor of Reader's Digest, India