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Tinderbox threat in premier health hub
Rampant use of cylinders

Small LPG cylinders, banned after the Bodhgaya blasts, are being used openly at Patna Medical College and Hospital by attendants of patients posing threat to everyone’s life.

On Monday, The Telegraph found many attendants using the cylinders in various blocks, including Bachcha ward and Rajendra Surgical ward, opposite to the hospital’s emergency wing. Some of them also use the cylinders near the PMCH superintendent’s office.

Sources said though the hospital has a community kitchen centre where patients’ attendants can prepare food but that cannot meet the needs of all attendants.

However, one of the staff of the community kitchen centre claimed that its service was not being utilised properly. He claimed that very few attendants turn up at the kitchen.

The sources said Indian Oil Corporation Limited had set up this kitchen and it was inaugurated by former health minister Ashiwini Kumar Choubey on August 27, 2010.

Ramji Singh (40), an attendant who was cooking food on a small cylinder at Rajendra Surgical block, said: “I have never been asked by the hospital authorities not to use small cylinders. So why should I stop using it? Here everybody is using small gas cylinders for preparing food. I am not an exception.”

Singh however knew that using small gas cylinders has been banned by the state government last year after the Bodhgaya blasts.

Panipati, another attendant, got scared when this correspondent approached her. “I am using this cylinder only for boiling water. I don’t cook food on it,” she said in a huff before disappearing.

Shambhu Pandey, another attendant, said he was not aware that such 5kg cylinders — each of these costs Rs 750 with a refilling charge of Rs 100 — were banned. Shambhu did not even know about the community kitchen at the hospital. “Nobody has told me about this,” he said.

A community kitchen centre staff, on condition of anonymity, said initially 200-250 people used to take its services but now the number has gone drastically down. “For 46-60 minutes, we charge only Rs 20. So you can’t say that the service is costly. I don’t know why the hospital administration is not taking stern action against the attendants who are using gas cylinders on the campus.”

Hospital superintendent Amar Kant Jha Amar admitted that the community kitchen could not meet the needs of all attendants. “Besides, it has increased the cooking charges because of which attendants are not using its services. Two days ago, we stopped many attendants from using such gas cylinders on the campus but they have again returned,” said Amar.

Experts also expressed their concern on the prevailing practice.

“Use of cooking gas cylinders by patients’ attendants at the PMCH is objectionable and unethical. This practice could be hazardous. The hospital administration has failed to stop this practice. It is unfortunate that the hospital administration doesn’t have staff and will take up measures for curbing the practice. As far as I know, there is a community kitchen centre at the hospital which is running in public-private-partnership mode but that is not able to meet the needs of all the attendants of PMCH. The hospital should engage some other private agency,” said doctor Rajiv Ranjan Prasad.

“The hospital should provide proper facility to patients’ attendants so that they do not take up to such practice,” said Sunil Kumar Singh, vice-president, Indian Medical Association.

Accidents have often been reported from such cylinder blasts across the country.

The use of such cylinders also is violation of law. In terms of economical viability, it should not have been popular but easy availability of the stuff has prompted the attendants to go for it.