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Shield for doctors against arrests
Bhattacharjee: Rap on police

Calcutta, Jan. 24: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said existing laws will be changed to prevent police from harassing doctors and arresting them for alleged negligence.

The chief minister criticised the police for arresting doctors on one pretext or another and said rules would be amended to ensure that a medical board is set up before the police act against a doctor accused of negligence.

“There are a few grey areas in the law which allow the police to intervene in such cases. But the police have no authority to decide whether a doctor is guilty or not, and I am determined to put an end to this practice,” Bhattacharjee said.

“In some cases, doctors are guilty and in some they are innocent, but the police cannot judge them. This does not happen in any civilised society and we will not allow it here,” he added.

Minutes before inaugurating a new Indian Medical Association (IMA) building on Biresh Guha Street, the chief minister said the government’s legal cell was working out the amendments, to be made public shortly.

An IMA delegation recently met Bhattacharjee and health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra to complain about police excesses against doctors.

“The situation was going out of hand with one doctor getting arrested after the other. People were fast losing trust in doctors and the government had to draw a line somewhere to stop this disturbing trend,” Moloy Patra, IMA state secretary, said.

Addressing a large gathering of doctors and other dignitaries, the chief minister admitted lapses by those providing primary healthcare.

The government has earned considerable flak after a string of deaths in state-run hospitals, starting with the death of budding cricketer Rajnis Patel in June last year at SSKM Hospital. Some months later Shabana, a child who was allegedly refused treatment at the Medical College and Hospital, died. Soon afterwards, college student Susmita Biswas bled to death in front of the SSKM Hospital emergency ward after having to wait over nine hours for admission.

“We have decided to remain focused to improve healthcare in Bengal despite increasing criticism from the Opposition and media. We have instead decided to concentrate on identifying the problems and make necessary improvements,” Bhattacharjee said.

The chief minister said his government has identified cancer, AIDS, diabetes and neurology as the areas that its health policy will address over the next few years.

Every year, over 60,000 new cancer patients throng the five medical colleges in the city. Bengal had fewer AIDS cases compared to north and Northeast India, but this is changing, much to the government’s concern.

Bhattacharjee said he had asked the health department to consult the IMA before finalising the Clinical Establishment Act. The act is being scrutinised by a review committee after the IMA objected, among other things, to the re-registration of doctors with the health department.

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