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SSKM wakes up to hostel security gaps

The SSKM Hospital authorities on Monday announced several security measures for its two hostels following an intern’s death from suspected drug overdose, a move insiders said should have been taken long ago.

The immediate measures make it mandatory for the students to sign a register before leaving or entering the hostels and inform the authorities in advance if they want to spend the night outside. The authorities will have to be informed if any student stays away from the hostels for 48 hour or more.

Also on the anvil, officials said, are frequent visits by faculty members and officials to keep an eye on the hostels. “We do not want to curb the students’ independence. The vigil aims to enforce discipline,” said a doctor.

None of the steps requires huge funds or approval of the government.

Some senior doctors at the hospital had cited a funds crunch as the reason for failing to maintain hostel discipline.

“There was no supervision at the hostels as there are no wardens. There is no budgetary allocation for wardens or even guards. We managed to hire just one guard for one of the hostels from the hospital’s budget. The other hostel has no guard at all,” a senior doctor said.

Pradip Mitra, the director of SSKM’s Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGMER), said on Monday: “Some short-term measures will be implemented immediately. We will send some proposed long-term measures — such as appointing non-medical wardens for the hostels and upgrading their infrastructure — to the health department for approval.”

The current practice is to ask doctors to double as hostel superintendents.

Mitra told Metro that he and the principals of other medical colleges have repeatedly alerted the government that the security of the hostels was being compromised because of inadequate funds.

“We never tabled any written proposal but raised the issue of funds at meetings between the government and the heads of all medical colleges in the state. We all raised the issue together,” said Mitra.

First-year postgraduate student Durbaraj Rakshit, who has been removed as superintendent of the hostel where the student who died used to stay, appeared before the 10-member hostel committee on Monday.

Rakshit told the panel that he was on duty and hence, not present at the hostel the night before students found Saptarshi Das gasping for breath and Mohammed Shahbaaz Siddiqui unconscious in room 426 on Friday morning. Both were apparently victims of drug overdose.

Saptarshi died on Saturday afternoon. Shahbaaz’s condition improved on Monday. “He is responding. He has spoken a little,” said a doctor.

Police said they would talk to Shahbaaz after his condition improved.

Students present and past said the security measures were long overdue. “How much money do you need to keep a register? It’s not just about consuming alcohol or drugs but also about the safety and security of the students,” said Gouranga Pramanick, a former student who was once general secretary of the SSKM students’ union.

Pramanick said pleas to the authorities to step up the hostels’ security following the theft of a student’s laptop in 2011 fell on deaf ears.

Some blamed the top-heavy administrative structure of SSKM for the lapses. “There is a director, a medical superintendent, a deputy superintendent, five assistant superintendents, a dean of students. The onus of maintaining the hostels perhaps gets lost in all the red tape,” said a student.

measures

SHORT TERM

  • Cards for students staying at hostels
  • Faculty and officials to visit hostels frequently
  • Students to sign register before leaving or entering hostel
  • Authorities to be informed if any student stays outside for 48 hours or more

LONG TERM

  • Non-medical warden
  • Upgrade of hostel infrastructure