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Enteric hitback in crisis district

Malda, Nov. 4: A medical officer in a remote health centre is buying saline bottles from donations by local residents to combat the enteric outbreak in the district where the man in charge of healthcare has gone on leave without informing anyone.

At least 33 people have died of diarrhoea and over 7,000 have been affected by water-borne diseases over the past two weeks, prompting the district administration to slap a showcause notice on chief medical officer of health Ashok Bandopadhyay, who went on unsanctioned leave a fortnight ago. The problem has been compounded by the absence of saline bottles and the government’s failure to provide funds for the drip. Yesterday, Malda magistrate Ashok Bala and zilla parishad sabhadhipati Gautam Chakraborty had directed the hospitals to buy the necessary stock of saline from the market as the government’s supply had dried up.

While the bureaucratic process preceding such work is yet to start, the medical officer of Malsabazar rural health centre in Harishchandrapur, Anshuman Sarkar, has to cope with a stream of patients.

With no saline at the health centre and government funds not in sight, Sarkar collected donations from the local businessmen and bought around 100 bottles of the liquid.

A temporary tent has been erected outside the health centre to tackle the flow of patients. “People are pouring into this health centre from nine gram panchayats, Chanchol and even villages in adjoining Bihar. About 55 patients are reporting here daily. The place is almost bursting,” said Sarkar, moving from one bed to another as he hollered out instructions to his crew of nurses and doctors.

“I need more doctors and nurses to deal with these patients, and urgently. It is not possible for two doctors, five nurses and general duty assistants to manage so many people,” he said.

Sarkar said 250 to 300 bottles were being used up every day. “I managed to get a supply of 500 saline bottles from the panchayat and the local businessmen gave money for 100 bottles. But the stock will finish by the night,” he said.

As Malda grappled with the crisis, an angry district administration sent a fax to Writers’ Buildings demanding a replacement for Bandopadhyay.

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