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Survey bares tea garden ill health

May 4: A survey by the state labour department has shown that of 273 tea estates in north Bengal, 107 don’t have hospitals.

Of the hospitals in the 166 tea gardens, there is no nurse in 116 hospitals, and there are MBBS doctors only in 74.

The state of health care in tea gardens has been highlighted in a report prepared by the joint labour commissioner’s office in Siliguri. The survey was taken up by him according to an instruction from state labour minister Purnendu Bose.

“In the report, it has been found that of the 166 hospitals, there are residential doctors only in 56. In the remaining 110 hospitals, patients need to depend on visiting doctors,” said a source.

The survey reveals that there is no hospital in 64 tea estates in the Darjeeling hills, 20 tea estates in the Terai and 23 tea estates in the Dooars.

“Of the 273 tea estates, 85 have no dispensaries, though they have hospitals. However, there are 10 other estates where there is not even a dispensary to provide medication to the workers and their families,” said the source.

The survey also shows that there are primary health centres in only 160 of 273 tea estates. There is no primary health centre in 38 tea estates in the hills, 38 in the Terai and 37 in the Dooars. “Ambulances are available in 160 tea estates but in most cases, the service is irregular,” says the source.

In the report, Goodricke Group has been appreciated for its health service to the tea workforce and their dependants.

“To provide proper health care facilities, it has been proposed in the report that there should be a hospital for a group of tea estates to bridge the critical gap,” said a senior official of the state labour department. “In total, 29 such group hospitals have been proposed in the report.”

For example, a group hospital has been proposed on Kumargram Tea Estate to ensure health care to workers of that garden and Newlands and Sankosh plantations. Kumargram is in Alipurduar subdivision of Jalpaiguri.

A similar proposal has been mooted to set up another such hospital on Thanjhora Tea Estate in the Terai, which can meet the needs of Thanjhora, Sachindrachandra, Satishchandra and Fulbari tea gardens.

According to the report, some of the tea estates where group hospitals have been planned are Samabiong, Margaret Hope, Singbuli, Selim Hill, Ambootia, Tirhanna, Simulbari, Mohorgong, Atal, Motidhar, Carron, Naya Saylee, Batabari, Nagaisuri, Malnadi, Good Hope, Odlabari, Jadabpur, Bhandiguri, Debpara, Gayerkata, Chamurchi and Banarhat.

“In the report, nothing has been mentioned as to how the state would help in creating the group hospitals. But it is evident that creation of such group hospitals can largely benefit the tea estate population throughout north Bengal,” said the labour department official.

“For the first time, such a comprehensive survey on health care facilities has been conducted in the tea estates. We would now wait for further decisions by the state government,” said the official.