The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Berth pangs, all day long
- Council tours SSKM campus to decide fate of medical seat plea

The couple of hours that the Medical Council of India (MCI) team spent behind closed doors inside the SSKM Hospital sergeant superintendent’s room on Thursday must rank among the two longest hours for the state health department this year.

For, what the three-member team penned during that period — after an inspection of the SSKM Hospital, the University College of Medicine and the Midnapore Medical College and Hospital — would determine whether the state government is able to get more undergraduate medical seats this year. And, maybe, sell them to students whose guardians are willing to shell out a million rupees for an MBBS degree.

The state health department is hoping for a green signal by September 22. So, the second round of counselling for the 70-odd seats not filled up during the first round has been set for September 27. If the MCI does respond positively to the government’s persistent pleas for more undergraduate seats at the three colleges, the counselling will spill over to September 28.

“We are hopeful of a positive outcome,” said state health secretary Asim Barman. Director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti agreed: “We put our best foot forward to ensure that the inspectors have something good to say and recommend more seats from this academic year.”

But, according to officials of the hospitals the MCI team visited on Thursday, the “best foot forward” was actually an effort “lacking in substance”. Most of the “improvements” were no more than “cosmetic changes” to impress the scout team, they added.

Thursday’s inspection began with SSKM Hospital around 9 am. The emergency ward (which had failed to impress the previous MCI batch), the outpatients’ department (with newly-installed computers) and the gynaecological and neo-natal units were looked at “particularly keenly”, officials accompanying the MCI team told Metro.

The boys’ and girls’ “hostels” (actually a condemned building and a patients’ waiting hall, respectively) were also scanned. Next up was the university college, before a return to SSKM. The presence of doctors was physically verified, officials said, but many were actually post-graduate trainees.

Then came the two hours of reckoning, cloaked in confidentiality. Even a bearer carrying tea was denied entry. Now begins the wait for the final verdict, after the berth pangs.

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