Chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the inauguration of a cord blood bank at the School of Tropical Medicine on Thursday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Mamata Banerjee on Thursday tugged at the umbilical cord to stop the flight of home-grown doctors, pleading with medical students to serve Bengal even if the “poor state” fails to match the pay and perks they would get elsewhere.
“My humble submission to you is do not leave the state. We are a poor state. We may not be able to pay you like the others but we have sincerity and warmth,” the chief minister pleaded with folded hands while inaugurating a cord blood bank and other projects at the School of Tropical Medicine off Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.
Cord blood, taken from the umbilical cord of a newborn, is a rich source of stem cells that can be used in the treatment of several diseases.
She also requested the doctors to do a rural stint. “If you manage some time after your studies, try to serve the people. I will request all doctors to spend at least two to four years in the villages. People in those place get confidence if good doctors visit them.”
Mamata cited a few doctors, some very senior, who see patients in the rural areas during weekends.
She said her government would set up 24 multispeciality hospitals in the districts.
The audience comprising mostly young doctors and researchers nodded in approval but couldn’t suppress their disapproval of the state’s crumbling health infrastructure. The general view was that facilities have to be upgraded to retain homebred doctors.
Many doctors who had left the state agreed. They gave three reasons behind the medical brain drain from Bengal.
nFewer postgraduate medical seats: Bengal has 930 compared with around 3,000 in Maharashtra or Karnataka.
nFewer medical colleges: Bengal has 16, far less than Karnataka (45) and Maharashtra (36). This means, those keen on taking up teaching have little option.
nPoor infrastructure in hospitals: “Bengal’s medical facilities are caught in a time warp… still in the 1970s,” a doctor said.
“We need better infrastructure and more medical seats to retain MBBS graduates,” said Sourav Datta, who graduated from Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital and earned his postgraduate degree from a Mumbai college. He is currently doing a fellowship at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai.
A junior doctor pointed out the monthly stipend paid to postgraduate trainees. “We get Rs 27,000 in Bengal and our compatriots in Delhi earns Rs 50,000,” she said.
The juniors said lack of modern facilities in ICUs had deprived them of good practical knowledge.
Sources said the facility that the chief minister inaugurated would be the first government cord blood bank in eastern India.
“Anyone can approach the centre and store the blood of a newborn. If the child develops a disorder as an adult, the cord blood can help cure the problem,” said a doctor.
“Cord blood is better than adult blood in many ways. The haemoglobin content of adult blood is normally 14, while that of cord blood is 20,” the doctor added.