Calcutta, Nov. 7: Asthma-ridden kids being “treated” at the B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children today paid through their noses for Union health minister Shatrughan Sinha’s scheduled visit on Saturday as hospital staff took the easiest way of clearing the campus of the accumulated garbage — burning it.
As officials finalised plans for “touching up” wards 6 and 7 and children at the state’s only paediatric referral hospital and their parents wondered how they would be shifted around, the state government put its best foot forward to make the hospital — where two phases of multiple deaths in September forced the New Left to take another look at its “health-sector reforms” — look better.
The garbage — all that had accumulated over the past few years — was burnt this morning along with the grass shorn off the lawns. “The smoke made it more difficult for the asthma-ridden children,” admitted a nurse on duty during the evening when the embers were still smouldering to the north of the hospital building.
Getting that extra bit of attention from nurses, too, had become more difficult, the ailing children’s mothers complained inside the wards.
“They are now more busy checking that the tablecloth does not have a speck of dirt,” one of them said. The fans — cleaned during the warm afternoon — added to the children’s discomfort, mothers attending them said.
State health department officials are busy preparing a script for the film star-turned-politician and efforts are going to be made, they say, to ensure that Shotgun Sinha — more remembered for his rhetoric on the screen — does not deviate in any way from the script being readied for him.
Director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti visited the hospital after leaving his Writers’ Buildings office late this evening. At an impromptu meeting with senior hospital officials, it was decided that the Union minister — on his first official visit to this Opposition-ruled state — would be shown around two wards (both paediatric medicine) on the second floor of the hospital.
“It was decided that the minister would be taken around wards no. 6 and 7,” a senior hospital official told The Telegraph. “It has also been decided that both wards would get a fresh coat of paint on Friday,” he said, adding that the exact modalities — how patients would be shifted around to make way for the work — were being worked out.
But the other wards — now being repaired one by one on a rotational basis — would not get such shock therapy, officials admitted. “We do not know whether the minister will ask to be shown around wards that we have not included in the itinerary but, even if he does, it’s not possible to paint every ward now,” one of them said.
But the exterior is getting a refurbishment and, going by appearances, Sinha is not going to see another ugly facet of the health scenario in the state — trade union activities — when he comes calling.
Group-D staff of the hospital say most of them have been taking a less-than-usual interest in visiting the hospital’s two union rooms (one belonging to the CPM-affiliated Citu and the other to the Congress-affiliated Intuc). Though union leaders insist that they have not shut down the units there, ground-level staff admit that the transfer of erstwhile superintendent Anup Mandal has made them “rather shaky”.
“There is no question of shutting down our unit,” coordination committee secretary Smarajit Raychaudhuri said. “But we don’t usually open the rooms during office hours,” he added.
Intuc leader Pramathesh Sen echoed his political opponents. “We open the union rooms even during office hours in case of emergencies,” he claimed.
Sinha, however, is not going to miss the freshly-painted grills — which have got a garish blue coat — and the suddenly-bright boundary walls (which have got a less gaudy combination).
Officials, however, are apprehensive. “Ministers who are not career politicians are generally not known to stick to the beaten path,” one of them explained. Given Sinha’s penchant for good copies in the media, officials say they cannot do anything except keeping their fingers crossed.