GURVINDER SINGH 
[email protected] 
Kolkata, 4 September
The burn unit at Sambhunath Pandit Hospital has been non-functional since the past two-and-a-half years for want of Group D staff, flying in the face of the state government’s efforts at improving the health situation.
Authorities at the hospital, located a few metres away from premier health care centre SSKM, refused to explain the inordinate delay in recruiting personnel for the six-bed burn unit. 
Hospital staff, on condition of anonymity, said although the burn unit shut down two-and-a-half years ago, it had been going through teething problems even before that. 
An employee of the hospital and member of the United State Government Employees Federation  said the Mamata Banerjee had donated Rs 10 lakh for the burn unit at the hospital out of her MP local area development corpus. "The operation theatre that was supposed to be a part of the burn unit as per the plan in 2002, when the unit was inaugurated, was never put in place," said the employee. Some time later, the only plastic surgeon in the ward left; thereafter, some of the Group D and nursing staff retired.
"The unit still somehow continued functioning, but acute shortage of Group D staff in 2010 brought about the unit’s closure," the employee added.
The hospital’s Medical Superintendent Soumabha Dutta, when contacted, accepted the situation was serious. “We now treat burn patients at the surgical ward, which is obviously dangerous, as it may lead to spread of infection,” he said, adding that the health department was in the process of recruiting "eight to ten persons" staff and the unit would start functioning again "soon". 
The condition of the burn unit at the hospital offers a stark contrast to the one at MR Bangur Hospital, where the government is setting up a special dedicated ward for burn patients.