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Hospital shut, public advised to ‘take medical care’

- Absence of doctors forces closure, glare on staff crunch at health facility for poor at Bijanbari

Darjeeling, Dec. 11: The Bijanbari Rural Hospital was shut today “till further notification” because of absence of doctors, says a notice issued by a health officer who asked the public to “take medical care”.

The closure of the inpatient and outpatient departments of the 32-bed hospital that caters for the financially backward people in Bijanbari block has brought to focus vacancies that haven’t been filled up for long.

A notice put up outside the hospital by Tapas Sarkar, the block medical officer of health, Bijanbari, reads: “It is hereby notify to state that all the General Public who regularly atten OPD & IPD at Bijanbari Rural Hospital to take Medical Care, that out patient Department and IN patient department will be closed from 11th Dec. 2013 till further notification as because of very much shortage of DOCTOR in this institution. All the higher authorities have already been informed about the matter.”

Any medical professional attached to government hospitals in the Darjeeling hills couldn’t recollect an instance where people were advised by a health officer to “take medical care” because of absence of doctors.

Sources in the hospital said of the sanctioned strength of eight doctors, only two were at the facility. “Although the block medical officer is also posted here, he is mostly involved in administrative matters. One of the doctors has been on maternity leave since October while the other one fell ill on Tuesday and is on sick leave. That is why the outpatient and inpatient departments didn’t function today,” said a source.

The block medical officer, Sarkar, had to go to a court in Darjeeling today for a hearing.

The source said several other problems had been plaguing the hospital for long. “There has been no technician to operate an X-Ray machine for the past one-and-a-half year. A technician for ECG works four days a week at the Siliguri District Hospital and spends two days at Bijanbari. A dentist also works for four days at Kurseong hospital. Both the ECG technician and the dentist are supposed to be posted at Bijanbari as they draw the salary from this hospital,” said the source.

The notice put up outside the hospital

Of the 24 sanctioned posts for Group D staff, 13 are vacant. Although the hospital requires 12 nurses, only nine are appointed.

Local people said the ambulance service at the hospital was also erratic.

Bijanbari is 35km from here.

Mukti Ram Sharma,who had come for an OPD check-up, today said: “It’s a sad state of affairs that the hospital cannot even keep the OPDs open. The closure of the department tells the entire story.”

Subhir Bhowmick, the chief medical officer of health, Darjeeling, said the issue had been sorted out. “I signed an order today deputing a doctor from the Sukhiapokhri hospital to Bijanbari. The doctor on sick leave has also joined,” said Bhowmick.

It couldn’t be confirmed if the two doctors took charge today.

Seven patients, including five women, were admitted to the hospital today. Deo Kumari Thami, a day wage worker from Chungthung, has been admitted with high blood pressure. “Well, the doctors had come yesterday for a check-up. But, no doctor turned up today. Whether the doctor turns up or not, I have to stay here as I cannot afford to go to private hospitals,” said Thami.