The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Deaths rock district, health boss missing

Malda, Nov. 3: Thirty-three people have died in the past week of diarrhoea and related water-borne diseases in the district, whose chief medical officer of health has gone on leave without informing anyone.

With the healthcare system under the scanner across the state, the district administration today scurried to save face and slapped a showcause notice on the officer, Ashok Bandopadhyay, who has been missing for the past fortnight when over 7,000 people were affected by water-borne diseases.

An emergency meeting was convened today by Malda district magistrate Ashok Bala and zilla parishad sabhadhipati Gautam Chakraborty to decide on how to send stocks of saline bottles to the affected areas of Chanchol subdivision, where there is a severe shortage of the liquid.

“The outbreak is because of a total lack of responsibility and utter callousness of the district health administration. We learnt the magnitude of the problem today. The person who is supposed to inform us about the epidemic is missing for the past fortnight,” an angry Chakraborty said after the meeting.

The hospitals in Chanchol have been asked to buy 23,000 saline bottles from the market as government supplies have dried up. “ORS packets and a million chlorine tablets have been sent,” Chakraborty said.

Bala said that with the chief medical officer of health absent, the administration has sent a report to the director of health services, Prabhakar Chatterjee, and health secretary Asim Burman. Chatterjee could not be contacted as he is in Bankura.

“A number of government-approved companies had been asked over a fortnight ago to send saline bottles. But with no supplies coming in, the crisis is severe and that is why we have asked the hospitals to buy the bottles from the market,” Bala said.

Chakraborty said the deputy chief medical officer of health and public health engineering officials were present at the meeting. “We are sending medical teams to the affected villages and have asked the doctors to send us daily updates on the number of deaths and the extent of the spread of the disease.”

Officials conceded that the situation was “very grim”. “We have had 33 deaths in the past week. The worst hit is Harishchandrapur II block, where 15 people have died. The other deaths have been reported from Chanchol I and Chanchol II and Ratua I and Ratua II blocks,” said a health official. The health department has set up tents at Masaldahbazar in Harishchandrapur.

“We have been treating at least 200 people in these tents every day,” said the official.

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