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NGOs step in for shut civic clinic

Residents of the civic health chief’s ward have no option but to depend on NGOs for basic medical services.

The residents gather on Canal East Road every Wednesday afternoon to collect medicines for common ailments handed out from vans of the NGOs.

A Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) health centre is only yards away from the spot where the vans park. Only the signboard outside the incomplete building suggests that it is a health centre.

Of the four floors, only the ground floor is functional. The construction started in 1990 but the rest of the floors are yet to be built.

The health centre doubles as a maternity home but it does not have a single bed or an operating theatre. Hardly any doctor visits the centre.

“Whenever we go there for treatment, we don’t find a doctor. Neither are there any medicines,” said Arindam Sil, a resident of ward 29, where over 100,000 people live.

“Diseases like cholera and diarrhoea are common in the ward because of contaminated water and lack of awareness. Most of them cannot afford to visit private hospitals and depend on the civic body’s health unit. Since it is non-functional, several NGOs are trying to provide basic health services,” said Nasim Ali, a doctor in the area.

Residents said the rooms on the ground floor remain locked throughout the year. Only polio immunisation camps are held in the health centre regularly.

Local councillor Subodh Kumar Dey heads the CMC’s health department, which is responsible for treating diseases like malaria, dengue, cholera, tuberculosis and diarrhoea in the 141 wards of the city through the civic health units.

Dey, who has been a councillor of the ward since 1965, was quick to pass the buck. “There are a lot of political problems due to which we have not been able to make the health centre fully functional,” he said.

The councillor admitted that more than Rs 1 crore had been sanctioned for the centre but could not explain where the money went. “Problems keep cropping up and the money was used to solve those problems,” added Dey.

According to the residents, the councillor is seen in the area only before elections. “Even the most basic facilities are not available in the health centre,” said a resident.

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