The hideous has happened at a premier state-run hospital.
And the closed gates of government hospitals in Kolkata and certain other districts since Tuesday exemplify the sclerosis that plagues the healthcare sector. It is painful to reflect that a critical index of public policy is largely in suspended animation; the disgrace is collective as must be the responsibility. The reality is much too grim for words if indeed since Tuesday morning, West Bengal has to make do without basic healthcare in government institutions.
Visually revolting has been the closure of the outpatients’ departments, where patients queue up since dawn for emergency attention. In equal measure, both the doctors of Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital and the mob that came in trucks to perpetrate the mayhem on Tuesday are answerable.
The death of 75-year-old Mohammed Shahid had prima facie ignited the bloody strife, tragically the head injury suffered by one of the junior doctors at the hands of a mob. If indeed Shahid died of negligence, as alleged by the rampaging relatives and friends, it is imperative for the hospital authorites to come upfront.
Equally, the mob responded with what appears to be calculated malevolence, reacting with far greater indignation than it was entitled to. From Basirhat to NRS in downtown Kolkata, parts of Bengal bear witness to a bonfire of sanity… though admittedly the incidents in the two farflung areas are wholly unrelated and might bear no comparison.
The crisis deserves to be handled with tact and firmness. Trends are ominous if a hospital complex is reduced to a virtual battleground and the canker spreads to other healthcare establishments. A statement by the Chief Minister, as demanded by junior doctors, might arguably have assuaged bruised sentiment. Not the least because she is technically also the health minister.
Hence also the shrill for action against the police for the allegedly delayed response, and measures to ensure safety of doctors in government hospitals. Mamata Banerjee could have won the confidence of the medical fraternity had she visited the two junior doctors, nursing grievous injuries in hospital.
Into this murky scenario stepped in Mukul Roy, the BJP’s new poster boy. Regretfully, his statement was not riveted to the incident per se; it was instead part political and part communal. This isn’t the juncture to play the role of a spin doctor and make disparaging comments on the alleged role of a certain community ~ “The attack on the doctors is a planned move by a particular community.”
Considering the enormity of the crisis, the former Trinamul leader’s take is as sweeping as it is irresponsible. The health sector cries out for a mature response from all stakeholders.
Above all, relatives of patients must realise that humans are mortal; while some may die because of medical inattention, redress lies in the legal process and not in rounding up violent mobs. If doctors stop treating emergency cases out of fear, it is the sick and dying who will suffer.