Heal-first pill for hospitals
Grace marks crutch to scale language barrier
Swiss August, spotlight city
Motorcycle gang grabs doctor’s necklace
The City Diary
Parallel route plan for Diamond Harbour Road
Traffic hazard inside SSKM
3-D in cancer treatment
PW-link slur on Trinamul
Youth brigade casts tax net

Calcutta, July 21: 
First the treatment, then the bill.

Come August, it will become mandatory for all private hospitals and nursing homes to make emergency services available without asking for immediate payment. Alarmed at the large number of cases of these institutions refusing to admit accident victims and other patients requiring emergency medical attention because of their failure to pay up on the spot, the government is gearing up to issue a directive and put an end to such a practice.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said the government order would be circulated by the end of this month. “We are working towards a scenario that will make all private nursing homes and private hospitals admit all emergency patients,” said Chatterjee. “These institutions will have to keep doctors at their disposal, with all facilities needed to cater to emergency patients. They will not be allowed to turn away patients for not having enough money on them when they meet with an accident or suffer an emergency.”

The Clinical Establishment Act, 1951, amended in 2000 and enforced earlier this year, clearly states that private hospitals must have emergency services. The Act also says that a person cannot be refused basic treatment on the grounds of being unable to pay while seeking admission. According to the new rules, nursing homes and private hospitals will have to keep speciality consultants and junior staff of all departments on duty round the clock, along with paramedical personnel, adequate beds and emergency-service equipment.

President of the Bengal chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Subir Ganguly, however, said it would be “practically impossible” for at least half the city’s nursing homes to comply with the new directive at once. “Nearly 50 per cent of the nursing homes in the city do not have the necessary infrastructure to start emergency services immediately. Only the bigger nursing homes are capable of meeting the requirements and so the smaller ones should be spared till a more practicable decision is reached on the infrastructure issue”.

The first signs of the government toughening its stand on the private healthcare institutes came in June when it cancelled Ruby General Hospital’s licence for refusing to accept a patient requiring emergency attention. “We decided to re-issue Ruby’s licence when it promised that all emergency cases would be attended to, even if patients were not capable of paying the fees at that time,” said Chatterjee.

Ruby chief public relations manager Tapas Mukherjee said: “We have two doctors providing round-the-clock service and nurses and equipment always at our disposal… We are now catering to at least 10 emergency cases every day,” said Mukherjee.

The Association of Hospitals of Eastern India (AHEI) is, however, in no mood to comply with the government’s plans “overnight”. The organisation, representing Woodlands, Calcutta Medical Research Institute, B.M. Birla, Kothari, AMRI-Apollo, Belle-Vue, Peerless and Ruby, has made it clear that it is not ready to accept the government’s directive without dialogue.

“We are planning to meet health minister Surya Kanta Mishra soon,” said A.M. Mullick, AHEI president and Woodlands vice-president (finance and administration). “One must realise there are several practical problems associated with the introduction of emergency services in nursing homes and private hospitals and we hope to sort out everything after meeting the minister.”

Others like P. Tandon of Belle-Vue said the issue went “deeper” and needed careful assessment. “We have neither the infrastructure nor the expertise to handle emergency patients. We are drafting a letter to the minister explaining our problems,” he said.

Deepak Mukherjee, owner of Microlap, a nursing home on Lansdowne Road, felt that emergency service was a “speciality” which most nursing homes could not offer at the moment.

Calcutta Pay Clinic and Hospital director K.C. Kedia felt nursing homes, now, could provide only first-aid. “But we are not yet ready to treat super-speciality emergency cases with this infrastructure,” he admitted.


Calcutta, July 21: 
It’s a “request” with a difference. Desperate to prevent a repeat of the large number of failures in the compulsory-language papers last year, Calcutta University (CU) has “asked” its head examiners to ensure that the papers are evaluated with “extra care” this year. The move is to ensure that the students do not trip at the language bar.

Students need to score at least 30 out of 100 in the two 50-mark papers — vernacular and English — and at least 10, separately, to pass the BA (Part I) examinations.

This is, in brief, what the examiners have been asked to do: give students in the 50-mark compulsory vernacular paper “at least 20, as far as possible”, as the authorities know they can’t depend on most students to get more than 15 in the other 50-mark English paper; and give students in the English paper “as close as possible to 15”.

The official CU stand, though, is that examiners have been given “a free hand”.

Controller of examinations O.S. Adhikari said on Sunday: “We have not asked any head examiner or examiner to give students anything more than they deserve.”

But the verbal instructions, “coming from the top”, have been greeted with “consternation” by a large section of examiners. “Each time I check an answer script, I ask myself why I am bothering to go through the paper. I might as well just put down the marks we have been asked to,” says an examiner of the Hindi compulsory paper.

A cross-section of teachers asked to evaluate the compulsory English and vernacular papers say the evaluation procedure has degenerated into a “farce”, with the university deciding to let as many candidates as possible pass the “meaningless” papers.

A head examiner — in charge of more than 20 examiners — says, however: “We know we cannot give 15 to a student who really deserves six. But we have been told to give 15 if the student has written something that should fetch 12 or 13 without the examiner’s help.”

Ditto for the other language paper. “We know most students find it very difficult to score more than 10 in the English paper,” says a Bengali examiner. “So we have been told to give at least 20 to students who deserve anything more than 16.”

Some Bengali examiners have even been asked to “re-evaluate” papers of students who have scored 15 and 20, said a senior official connected with the evaluation procedure.

This, he added, demonstrated the authorities’ “anxiousness” to prevent a repeat of the 2001 flop show.

The varsity’s effort to find an easy way out for students is also reflected in the proposed move to modify the syllabus for the compulsory English paper.

Officials corroborate that passages from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice, and some essays by George Bernard Shaw, are proving “too difficult” for students, most coming from Bengali-medium schools.

And so, the plan to change the syllabus from the next academic year.


Calcutta, July 21: 
It’s a Calcutta summer in Switzerland this August. The setting is the 55th Locarno International Film Festival; the star cast from the city is led by Mrinal Sen, Aparna Sen and Goutam Ghose. While the works of some will be featured in the Indian Summer — a section making its debut in the festival — Aparna’s Mr and Mrs Iyer will be the only Indian film in the International Competition section this year.

“The selection is very important for Mr and Mrs Iyer as Locarno is the second oldest film festival in the world. It is an extremely prestigious festival which has not been commercialised yet,” says Aparna.

“The hosts have been interested in the film ever since they heard it was a love story set against the backdrop of a riot. They were quite ecstatic after they saw it,” Sen adds, summing up the film starring daughter Konkona Sen Sharma and Rahul Bose as “love in the times of violence”.

Aparna will be travelling with Konkona (who is “looking forward to the reaction of a non-Indian audience to the film and going to Switzerland for the first time”) and will also attend the screening of her film Yugant in the Indian Summer section.

Mrinal Sen’s films will not be in competition, but much of the spotlight at the Piazza Grande auditorium will be on him. The veteran director will be given “a special reception” at the festival; his yet-to-be released Amaar Bhuvan, starring Nandita Das, will be screened under Tribute films, along with Ismail Merchant’s Hifazat; and Akaler Sandhaney finds a place in the Indian Summer.

“I am not sure why I am being felicitated, but I guess age has something to do with it,” laughs Sen. “The invitation said my films are meant to inspire the younger lot, which is why they are keen to have me there.”

Sen is also slightly unsure why Amaar Bhuvan has been categorised under the Tribute section. “I guess they go by the period,” he surmises.

This will be Sen’s fourth trip to the festival, including one as chairman of the jury in 1990. But for the first time at Locarno, an audience of 7,000 will view 30 Indian films. “It’s a good sign and it also underlines Indo-Swiss bonding. But I do wish our films fare better at the box-office. Somehow, when the festival tag gets attached to a film, people shy away from the theatres,” says Sen, promising to start work on a new film on his return from Locarno.

It’ll also be a double bill for Goutam Ghose at Locarno this time. While his Antarjali Yatra will be screened as part of the Indian Summer on August 7, he is also the cinematographer for Mr and Mrs Iyer. Before leaving for the Jerusalem Film Festival, where his film Dekha will be shown, Ghosh says: “The Locarno festival director Irene Beniardi was, in fact, joking that I ought to get a double bill for being connected to both films.”

But why Antarjali Yatra and not Dekha for Indian Summer? “I believe this section is basically an effort to portray Indian cinema in its many moods and its different styles, from art house to popular entertainment. I guess Antarjali fits in somewhere there,” feels Ghosh.

Ghosh, who slipped behind camera “on Aparna’s request” for Mr and Mrs Iyer, says: “It’s a good film. I think it will draw a good crowd at Locarno, which from my past experiences does give its due to such films. Since I am the cinematographer, I am looking forward to reactions from technically-oriented people.”

Other city directors whose works will feature in Indian Summer — put together by curator Uma da Cunha — are Rituparno Ghosh’s Utsab, Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Bagh Bahadur and Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj ke Khiladi. While Dasgupta won’t be able to go, Ghosh is “still unsure” whether he’ll make it to Locarno.

“I am glad that the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation (SDC) has taken the initiative to start this section. Locarno is definitely one of my favourite festivals, still untouched by commercialism,” says Dasgupta.


Calcutta, July 21: 
She was out on her customary evening walk with her grand-daughters in New Alipore on Friday when her necklace was snatched. Sushila Madan, a leading child specialist, and her husband spent Saturday shuttling between New Alipore police station and Lalbazar police headquarters, seeking justice.

On Sunday, with no sign of the cops bringing the offenders to book, a traumatised Sushila was left wondering if she could muster up the courage to go for another evening walk.

Recounting her experience on Friday evening, Sushila said: “It was around 5.45 pm. We were walking the two-km stretch of Humayun Kabir Sarani, in G Block, adjoining my house, till the New Alipore Association.’’

After about 800 yards, two men on a motorcycle approached her. They produced a scrap of paper with a “vague” address and phone number scribbled on it but Sushila was unable to help them locate it.

After a while, Sushila noticed the men again. She ignored them and walked on. On reaching the last roundabout, she suddenly saw them right behind her.

Then, one of them grabbed at her necklace. She tried to get hold of the man but he managed to escape with the necklace. Sushila fell and injured herself.

Shaken, the doctor returned home. Later, accompanied by her husband, she went to New Alipore police station and lodged an FIR. The Madans claim the police took a “lot of time to react.’’

“Instead of promptly trying to track down the motorcycle, they began to ask us unnecessary questions,’’ said Sushila’s husband, S.K. Madan. Ultimately, the police asked the Madans to go to Lalbazar and take a look at photographs of snatchers.

“We are investigating the case and hope to crack it in the coming days,’’ said officer-in-charge of New Alipore police station, Ranjit Maity.



Ray documentary print retrieved

The Academy of Motion Pictures has procured the only existing print of Sikkim, a little-known documentary by Satyajit Ray, nearly three decades after it was made. The print, reportedly in bad shape, was traced two years ago to the custody of Ms Hopcook, a descendent of the Namgiyal dynasty that ruled Sikkim before it merged with India in 1975. The Namgiyals, who had financed the documentary, left for the US after Sikkim got statehood. Since then, Dilip Bose of Brown University, on behalf of the Ray Society, spearheaded efforts to restore the print of the 60-minute documentary, made in 1971 in black and white, Ray’s son, Sandip, said on Sunday.

Missing trader returns home

Sheikh Amiruddin, a cell phone trader from Metiabruz who had been missing for the past three days, returned home on Sunday. Amiruddin told Metiabruz police that criminals had kidnapped him from a place near Watgunge. They released him after his family coughed up a ransom, Amiruddin alleged.

Foundation Day

Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan, a non-government hospital with 550 beds, will observe its 71st foundation day on Wednesday. Hospital secretary Swami Sarvolokananda said that Governor Viren J. Shah and Susil Mukherjee, former Calcutta University vice-chancellor and president of the hospital’s managing committee, will attend.

Foreign links

Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) established links with the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Saturday under a tele-cardiology programme. Rakesh Verma, RTIICS secretary, said patients in Malaysia can now seek advice from Dr Devi Shetty at RTIICS or Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bangalore.


The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences has recently initiated a series of media-related activities to mark the 75th anniversary of Indian broadcasting.    

Calcutta, July 21: 
There’s good news for residents of Behala. Alarmed at the sharp rise in traffic on Diamond Harbour Road — the city’s principal link with South 24-Parganas — and the simultaneous increase in encroachments that has eaten up more than 25 per cent of its width, the government has finalised plans for building a road that will run west of and parallel to Diamond Harbour Road.

The urban development department has already asked Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) to submit a feasibility report. Officials are confident they can submit the report to urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya before the Pujas this year.

Trinamul Congress MLA from Behala (West) Partha Chatterjee, whose constituency will benefit most from the project, said a bypass on the west, like the James Long Sarani bypass to Diamond Harbour Road’s east, was a long-felt necessity.

“I am happy that the government has accepted my demand,” Chatterjee said, adding that people shuttling between the city and South 24-Parganas will also benefit from the bypass.

The proposed road, according to officials, will begin near Taratala in the north. It will meet Diamond Harbour around eight km south, near Bakultala, via Parnasree and the Behala Flying Club, they add. It will ease much of the load on the already-overburdened 180-km-wide Diamond Harbour Road.

Behala, comprising 18 wards and two boroughs on both sides of Diamond Harbour Road, is home to around 1.5 million people, with at least 20,000 vehicles using both lanes of the Calcutta-South 24-Parganas main road. But it is increasingly being taken over by vendors — of even green vegetables and fish — light commercial vehicles and, worst of all, auto-rickshaws, which together take up more than 50 feet of the road.

The worst stretches on the road are the four-point Taratala crossing, where vehicles from Budge Budge converge as well, Behala Chowrasta and the terminals for buses on routes 14 and 3A, say South 24-Parganas traffic officials.

Police officials say the resultant congestion — “worst” during the office hours — is adding to the pollution worries of entire Behala. “Something has to be done immediately to tackle the situation,” said Behala police station officer-in-charge Subhas Sen.

Adding to the chaos is the large number of rickshaws that ferry Behala residents to and from their homes on both sides of Diamond Harbour Road. “The rickshaws can ply in the narrow lanes but add to the chaos on the arterial road,” Sen added.

The pressure on the roads in the area, say officials, is going to increase manifold because of the large number of housing projects coming up west of Diamond Harbour Road. With most of the area already occupied to the east of the road, the western flank is now witnessing a housing boom, they add.

The government’s plans for the Behala Flying Club will also receive a boost with the western bypass, say officials. “A jam-free road is absolutely necessary for any plans the authorities may have for the flying institute,” they added.

Diamond Harbour Road is also the only road link between Esplanade and places like Diamond Harbour, Kakdwip and Namkhana further south.


Calcutta, July 21: 
The SSKM Hospital compound is fast deteriorating into an accident-prone and polluted zone, with many drivers preferring to use its internal network of roads to take a short-cut between Lower Circular Road and Harish Mukherjee Road, according to the hospital’s authorities.

Having failed to get the police to crack down on the “menace”, senior hospital officers have now approached health secretary Asim Barman to “do something” to put an end to a situation that, they feel, may spin out of control.

“SSKM Hospital surgeon superintendent Deb Dwaipayan Chatterjee has verbally informed me of the problem and I have asked him to submit a written report,” Barman said on Sunday.

Hundreds of cars pass through the hospital every day, particularly during the peak hours, to bypass traffic signals and the police at the crossing of Lower Circular Road and Harish Mukherjee Road.

Because of the exhaust fumes, patients are forced to breathe polluted air. Horns, too, are a “constant nuisance”, say hospital officers. “The situation is worsening by the day,” one of them added.

“Please don’t be surprised if you hear of a mishap in the compound some day soon,” Chatterjee said. “I have repeatedly requested the police to stop this but without any result,” he added.

Deputy commissioner (traffic) M.K. Singh said instead of traffic police being posted in the compound, the hospital authorities should themselves deploy guards at the gates.

More and more drivers tend to use the hospital compound with the jam on Lower Circular Road, consequent to the work on the flyover creating a major bottleneck at the busy crossing in front of Rabindra Sadan.

North-bound cars approaching Chowringhee from Harish Mukherjee Road take a detour through the compound in the morning, entering it through the gates on the south-east and leaving it via the northern gate adjacent to the Institute of Post-Graduate Medicine and Research. The direction is reversed in the afternoon.


Calcutta, July 21: 
The radiotherapy wing of Medical College and Hospital has emerged as the first hospital in eastern India to successfully treat cancer patients with the aid of three-dimensional images.

The software, known as the 3-Dimensional Treatment Planning System (3-DTPS) obtained by the radiotherapy department of the hospital at a cost of Rs 50 lakh, has helped therapists effectively plan treatment and treat cancer patients with better results than before. Every year, over 2,500 new cancer patients approach the medical college for treatment, 50 per cent of them in an advanced stage.

“This machine is a big boon for poor patients, who cannot afford to spend lakhs in the West. The machine has given us the much-needed cutting edge,” said Subir Ganguly, head of the department (radiotherapy), Medical College and Hospital.

A radiotherapist can now find out the exact size of the malignant tumour site, and its surrounding areas with the help of 3-D images, which also provide exact readings and angles of the radiation to be beamed on the patient.

A patient, who approaches the radiotherapy wing of the hospital, now has his CT-Scan reports studied in a computer, connected to the 3-DTPS machine. The therapist, trained to read the 3-D images of the tumour site and the surrounding areas, now finds out the extent of radiation required in the tumour site and the milder dose for the adjoining areas.

By obtaining correct readings, the therapist eliminates chances of any damage to surrounding healthy tissues. “Excessive radiation damages the healthy tissues, causing cancer at a later stage. This process eliminates these chances,” said a city oncologist.

For example, a lung cancer patient can now be sure that the radiation beam will not damage the spinal cord. “One should, however, bear in mind that this procedure is not applicable for advanced-stage patients,” Ganguly added.


Siliguri, July 21: 
The war of words between the CPM and Trinamul Congress is likely to intensify with the ruling party’s state boss Anil Biswas accusing Mamata Banerjee’s group of maintaining clandestine “links” with the People’s War.

Biswas, on a visit to Siliguri, said last evening: “The PW is mainly active in West Midnapore, Bankura and Hooghly, by and large controlled by the Trinamul Congress before last year’s Assembly elections. One can clearly read the turn of events and ascertain connections.”

Biswas did not say whether his accusation was backed by police finding. Trinamul reacted sharply to the accusation, describing it as “baseless and politically motivated”.

Biswas said the Left rebels were incited into violence “by political parties of all hues.” “The Trinamul Congress leads the pack. This is primarily because they have become frustrated at being unable to get a taste of power,” the CPM leader said.

Biswas also accused the entire Opposition of hatching a plan to destabilise the state. “The Congress, BJP and the Trinamul Congress were all part of ‘that big network’. But we are prepared to foil their attempts,” he said.

The CPM state secretary hinted that Mamata’s organisation had links with the Kamtapur People’s Party as well. “The Kamtapur movement, created out of the air, was designed to mislead people of an ethnic origin. The fact that the movement has lost steam is evidence that it was misdirected,” he added.

Biswas said the government had succeeded in curbing the Naxalite movement in the seventies. “This time again, we will defeat the designs of the ultras.”


English Bazar (Malda), July 21: 
Feeling the pinch, the small municipality here is adding punch to its tax collection drive.

It has employed 50 youths to collect water tax for a fixed daily remuneration after the municipal affairs department indicated that no more funds would be made available to foot civic bills.

“We expect to collect about a crore (of rupees) in water taxes each year. The young men are on temporary appointment and will help intensify the revenue collection. We have been told by Writers’ Buildings no extra allocations will be made in the future,” said municipality chairman Krishnendu Chowdhury.

The men have fanned out in the 25 wards for a preliminary survey. The civic body charges Rs 10 daily for water used by commercial establishments. Residential premises pay between Rs 30 to 75 every month.

“We have no way out as our budget is about Rs 12 crore and we spend nearly Rs 11 crore a year,” Chowdhury said. “We spend around a crore on water supply alone — on power bills and maintenance,” he added.


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