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Emergency bell for docs

Tamluk, Dec. 10: The chief medical officer of East Midnapore has urged the health department to “immediately” appoint doctors to the over 70 health centres in the district, faced with an acute shortage.

According to data available with the district administration, there are 114 doctors at the health centres, against the sanctioned strength of 247.

In a letter to the director of health services in October, the chief medical officer requested that the 133 posts that have been lying vacant for a year be filled up.

“As such, you are once again requested to consider the crisis of MOs (medical officers) and intervene to fill up the vacancies immediately in order to save a serious breakdown of essential services,” the letter by Swapan Jhariat dated October 21 says.

Asked about the shortage, Jhariat said today: “In October, 33 doctors had to be released for higher studies. This has compounded the problem.”

Junior health minister Chandrima Bhattacharya said the problem had persisted for “quite some time”.

“We are aware of the problem and we have started the recruitment process. Appointment letters will be issued in phases in February and March next year,” she said.

In East Midnapore’s Egra, there are no doctors at the heath centres in Kasbagola and Chatla for about a year. Pharmacists and nurses examine patients and prescribe medicines for cough and cold, stomach upset and indigestion.

Bablu Jana, a 55-year-old farmer in Chatla, said he had taken his wife Jyotsna, 48, to the local health centre last week after she complained of stomach ache, but the pain did not subside even after she took the medicines prescribed by the pharmacist.

“There was no doctor at the health centre. The pharmacist gave my wife some medicines. But they could not reduce the pain. I had to take her to Egra subdivisional hospital, about 20km away,” Bablu said.

The pharmacist, Tapan Maity, said a doctor had been appointed on a temporary basis a year ago but he never turned up.

“The doctor is attached to the block primary health centre in Ramchandrapur, 15km away. Villagers come to the health centre with simple ailments such as fever, cough and cold, stomach upset and indigestion. We cannot turn them away. I give them medicines. If I am not here, the nurse treats the patients. We have treated around 9,000 patients in the past one year,” Maity said.

A similar situation prevails at the Kasbagola health centre.

The pharmacist at the health centre, Arun Chowdhury, said: “Anindita Jha, the doctor who was recruited here recently, has been given the additional charge of the block health centre in Ramchandrapur. So, she has become irregular here. The last time she examined patients here was during the Pujas in October.”

Doctor Jha said it was difficult for her to find time after being given the additional responsibility.