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Police in health centre, patients at doctor home

Patients wait outside the doctor’s home; the police camp at the health centre. Pictures by Mehedi Hedaytullah

A police camp set up in a government health centre in Daspara three decades ago and forgotten by the administration is forcing the lone doctor attached to the centre to see patients at his residence.

Two of the four rooms at the Daspara primary health centre in Chopra are occupied by policemen. The centre was allotted Rs 60 lakh to add 10 beds, but the money is lying unutilised. At present, it has one “emergency” bed and only offers OPD facilities from 10am to 2pm.

Patients are suffering if the treatment required is anything more than basic. The nearest health facility is the block health centre in Chopra, about 17km from Daspara. The Islampur subdivisional hospital, about 35km away, is the nearest hospital.

“It is very inconvenient to have a police camp at the centre,” said S. Mandal, the doctor. “Patients are coming to my house.”

There are two nurses attached to the centre.

Villagers said the police camp was a bother in other ways too.

“Whenever we go to the health centre, we are asked all kinds of questions by the policemen there. There are armed cops at the gates and women do not go to the health centre out of fear. No one seems to be interested in improving health care facilities in our area and people are suffering,” said Zakir Hossain from Malgachh, a village near the Daspara health centre.

One of the two rooms of the health centre is used to store medicines and equipment. Only one room is available for the doctor, other staff and patients.

Residents have complained to the authorities repeatedly. But the centre seems to have escaped the attention of the health authorities and political leaders for the past three decades.

A temporary police camp had been set up at the centre in 1982 after a political clash.

Congress zilla parishad member and karmadhyakshya (agriculture) Mohammad Mostafa Kamal said the former Left Front government had sanctioned Rs 60 lakh to add the 10 beds.

“Three years ago, the funds were sent to the zilla parishad by Swasthya Bhavan so that indoor patient facilities could be started. We cannot take up the work because of the police camp,” Kamal said.

He blamed former CPM MLA from Chopra Anwarul Haq, who was also the minister of state for health, for the situation. But Kamal added that Trinamul leaders of Chopra are responsible for the status quo now.

“We have made several pleas to the administration to shift the police camp. It is very disappointing that the Trinamul government is showing no interest,” Kamal rued.

The present Trinamul Congress MLA from Chopra, Hamidul Rahman, blamed the Congress-led zilla parishad for the state of affairs.

“I want to know why the Congress-run zilla parishad is not taking up the expansion of the health centre despite the funds lying with them,” Rahman said.

He added that the police camp would shift once the construction work for the expansion begins.

North Dinajpur police superintendent Dipankar Bhattacharya said efforts were on to shift the camp.

“We are scouting around for an alternative location. We have appealed to the residents to look for a suitable place to shift the camp. It is incorrect to say that the expansion of the health centre is being hampered because of the police,” Bhattacharya said.

The officer of the Chopra block primary health centre, Kartik Das, said that he had informed his seniors about the matter.

“It is true that it is difficult for doctors to work there because of the police camp. I have informed my seniors about the matter,” Das said.