The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ex-soldiers to boost security at hospitals

The state government is overhauling the security system in the hospitals it runs in Calcutta in the wake of the violence at hospitals in Suri and Kalyani.

The initiative involves five major government-run hospitals in the city — SSKM Hospital, Medical College and Hospital, Nilratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital, Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital and the RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, say officials.

State health secretary Asim Barman said the Suri incident, where Tiger Singh, strapped with explosives, held several persons hostage for over eight hours, was an eye-opener for the government. “We are interacting with the police to ensure that people are frisked before they are allowed to enter the city’s hospitals,” he said on Sunday.

To begin with, the government has decided to hand over security affairs to ex-servicemen in all city hospitals as well as the districts. “We are in touch with the Sainik Board to get the best group of ex-servicemen to take over security at government hospitals,” Barman said.

The government’s experiments — a scaled-down version of it has begun at SSKM — have started yielding results. Fifty ex-servicemen have been posted at some of the hospital’s buildings from May 1 and there has been a marked improvement in the situation, say officials. “It does help a lot,” hospital surgeon-superintendent Debdwaipayan Chattopadhyay said. “But we need more men since our hospital is huge and there are many entrances and exit points,” he added.

One of the many points considered by the government is closing down the number of entrances (gates) to a hospital. “Once the gates to the hospital and the wards are limited, it will be easier for the security personnel to check the entry of visitors,” a senior Calcutta Police official said. The health secretary agreed. “Even the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi does not have as many entrances as the hospitals here do,” Barman said.

Following the experience in Suri, where police were impeded as they could not find alternative routes to the male surgical ward where Tiger Singh had taken patients hostage, city police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty held a string of meetings with detective department deputy commissioner Soumen Mitra and officers of the department’s anti-rowdy section last week.

The sleuths were directed to prepare detailed maps of the hospitals and “all alternative entrances and exits”. The health department is taking up the issue of bolstering police presence at hospital outposts with the home (police) department.

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