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Keep-out frown, speak-up glare Buddha slams hospital door on media

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government on Monday took what it viewed as a giant step towards improving the healthcare system in the city — banning the media from hospital premises. “No country allows the media such access into hospitals,” said the chief minister, making it clear that the ban was here to stay.

Most medical professionals welcomed the move. As a leading city-based doctor put it: “Healthcare is a specialised zone, where we employ qualified doctors, technicians and nurses to offer a variety of treatment, which some sections of the media may not be familiar with. Therefore, in the best interests of medical service, the media should not be allowed free access everywhere in a hospital. This is the norm in most other big cities all over the world.”

Bhattacharjee made his intentions clear to a delegation from the Calcutta Press Club that met him to express concern over how some journalists had been beaten up, allegedly by some house-staff and interns, at RG Kar Medical College and Hospital late on Saturday.

The chief minister said the journalists were beaten up “because ‘they’ (without specifying who) didn’t want the truth to come out”. He went on to allege that “sometimes, political parties inform the media about an incident even before it occurs”.

Stressing that he meant business, Bhattacharjee said: “We will restrict political parties and unions inside hospitals. Once that happens, what business will the media have inside hospitals'”

Blaming the media for crowding hospitals and inconveniencing patients and doctors, the chief minister referred to the visit he had paid to Belle Vue Clinic to spend time with the Indian cricket captain.

“If I hold Sourav Ganguly’s hand, maybe it makes a good picture. But that ought to be taken at Eden Gardens on the night of the (tri-series) finals on November 18, not at a hospital. When I went to see Sourav at a nursing home, there were so many mediapersons around… It causes a lot of problems for other patients,” he observed.

Bhattacharjee was backed by Left Front chairman and CPM politburo member Biman Bose. “There must be a code for not allowing unwanted people inside hospitals. Only patients, their relatives and the manpower required in the treatment of the patients can be allowed in. It must be made clear that the rest — the media included — are all unwanted,” declared Bose.

Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, however, chose Monday to break her silence and challenge the chief minister point for point.

Mamata dared Bhattacharjee to order a CBI probe or an inquiry by a sitting high court judge into the violence at RG Kar to “reveal the truth” behind the chief minister’s charge that her partymen were involved in the Saturday night fracas.

She went on to announce how she had informed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee about “the sorry state of affairs” in Bengal’s health sector.

“It is not just the health and education sectors, but many other areas that are in a state of disarray. If necessary, I will speak to him (Vajpayee) again,” warned Mamata.

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