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Mayor wakes up to sick clinics

Mayor Sovan Chatterjee’s advice to dengue and malaria patients to visit the Calcutta Municipal Corporation-run clinics for lifesaving treatment stands amended after a forced reality check.

The rephrased recommendation could read: “Come to the CMC clinics for the treatment of malaria and dengue after March 31, 2013, and you won’t die.”

The mayor has sanctioned Rs 25 lakh for the three rundown clinics in Topsia, Palm Avenue and Picnic Garden whose plight The Telegraph had highlighted last Tuesday, a day after his assertion that the best places for treatment in town were the centres run by his team.

“The Rs 25 lakh is only an initial contribution for the three clinics. Over the next few months, we will try to improve all our clinics,” Chatterjee promised, setting March 31 as the deadline.

The mayor blamed the erstwhile Left Front board for the state of the clinics, about which he seemed blissfully unaware until three days ago. “We inherited them in such a bad shape. All the boroughs have been asked to submit status reports on the condition of the health clinics in their respective areas. The civil engineering department will accordingly draw up plans for an overhaul,” he said.

The civic body runs a chain of 137 malaria-detection and five dengue-detection units across the city. Diagnosis and treatment are free but you could pay the price for trusting such ill-equipped, poorly maintained health centres with your life.

Mayoral council member (health) Atin Ghosh said most CMC-run clinics were ailing. “I tried to improve their condition but couldn’t because of inadequate funds. If the mayor allocates money, the revival programme can start afresh.”

Doctors and laboratory technicians working in these clinics blame successive mayors for their condition. “These clinics have always been treated as charitable dispensaries for which poor slum-dwellers should be grateful, irrespective of their condition. Nobody has given a thought to maintaining them,” an official said.

A former chief municipal health officer said it was sheer luck that nobody had died of dengue or malaria in the clinics. “The least that the mayor could have done before asking everyone to visit these clinics for dengue and malaria treatment was take a look at how they have been functioning.”

The Telegraph had found a lab technician each in charge at the Palm Avenue and Topsia clinics. Each of the three clinics surveyed was as poor in hygiene as it was in infrastructure and manpower. Places conducive to vector breeding were seen in every clinic.

Municipal commissioner Khalil Ahmed has since asked chief municipal health officer Tapan Mukherjee to ensure that doctors and technicians punctually report for duty.

The clinics are supposed to be open from 8am till 4pm but most employees allegedly start leaving after 2pm. Some go for lunch and don’t return that day.