Sir — The editorial, “Doctors’ call” (Oct 10), has rightly focused on the problem of doctors’ irregularity or late arrival in the out-patient departments of government hospitals in West Bengal. It is unfortunate that doctors attached to government hospitals have a casual attitude towards their duties. The patients, most of whom are very poor, depend wholly on these doctors, who remain busy with their private practices, frequently giving the hospitals a miss. Although it is good to know that the West Bengal government is monitoring doctors’ attendance, this alone cannot bring about a qualitative change in patients’ lives unless the remaining members of the hospitals’ staff take their responsibilities seriously.
Besides, there is no denying the fact that most of our government hospitals are not equipped with the machines required for proper treatment of patients. Doctors cannot do much if they are handicapped by the lack of infrastructure. Again, most hospitals are frequented by unauthorized people who enjoy the support of a section of the hospital employees. They make the hospitals chaotic and unruly places.
Basir Ahmed, Salboni, West Midnapore
Sir — The editorial paints a gloomy picture of the prevailing state healthcare system. The latest move of the government to monitor doctors in an effort to revive the ailing system is nothing but a practical joke which is unlikely to yield the desired results. On the other hand, it may further aggravate the situation by earning the wrath of the doctors who may not like non-medical personnel monitoring their activities. The present pathetic condition of state hospitals calls for introspection on the part of doctors, all non-medical, para-medical and Group D staff, as well as of the health authorities. The situation cannot be improved through coercion.
The prevailing work culture of the state has tainted the medical profession too. Interference of political leaders in the internal administration of state hospitals is responsible for demoralizing the doctors. In such a situation, they cannot carry out their duties without fear. Sometimes, relatives of patients and other hooligans mistreat doctors. Besides, doctors are crippled by the lack of basic infrastructure. Doctors in the village hospitals are not paid on time. Reportedly, they do not get the full cooperation of the para-medical and non-medical staff. This also causes frustration among doctors.
However, the government’s decision to overhaul the rapidly deteriorating system is undoubtedly praiseworthy. But the government must also do something about the infrastructure and inculcate the right work culture in the staff. The government might have used the word ‘monitoring’ by mistake. The performance of doctors can be supervised, but not monitored — only health services need constant monitoring.
Jayant Mukherjee, Calcutta
Sir — The report, “Strike halts trains to north, govt prods Bihar”(Oct 13), points to a serious problem, which must be taken up in Parliament for discussion. There should be immediate remedial action to stop the damaging practice of rail and road blockades. On October 12, a 14-hour blockade in Kishanganj had cut off the rail link to North Bengal and the Northeast since 10 am, holding up thousands of passengers in various stations. The passengers must have had a harrowing experience. They faced water shortage and food scarcity. The air-conditioning malfunctioned in the first-class compartments, and there was shortage of medicines, causing a near-collapse of patients travelling to get treatment. Many passengers going for interviews lost the chance to get a job. Soldiers travelling to join important missions in the Northeast got delayed.
This is nothing short of a violation of basic human rights. The blockade at Kishanganj was lifted a little past midnight at the behest of the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee. Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, who is famed as one of the most proactive leaders, chose to do nothing about the agitation despite the suffering of the passengers. Kumar owes a public apology to his countrymen for having failed to disperse the crowds blocking the railway lines.
Benu Kumar Bose, Calcutta