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Axe lands on medical college head

- Official and minister mum on reason, doctors cite plain-speaking before Chandrima

Siliguri, Aug. 4: The state health department today suspended Anup Kumar Roy, the principal of North Bengal Medical College and Hospital.

Sources in north Bengal’s biggest state hospital said the letter did not cite any reason.

A section of doctors and hospital officials pointed out that the suspension order came days after Roy pointed out to junior health minister Chandrima Bhattacharya the state’s shortcomings in the way it was dealing with the Japanese Encephalitis outbreak.

Sushanta Banerjee, the director of medical education, confirmed the news of the suspension.

He refused to divulge the reason. “Yes, the principal of NBMCH has been suspended. But I cannot say anything about the reason for the suspension,” he said.

When minister Bhattacharya was asked about the reason, she said: “I cannot tell you anything.”

On July 26, Bhattacharya had held a meeting with health officials at Uttarkanya.

Sources said that at the meeting, Roy, who is known to speak his mind, pointed out shortcomings in the state’s fight to check the spread of Japanese Encephalitis, which has claimed over 120 lives in north Bengal.

The NBMCH source said: “The principal is a very vocal and honest person and he had raised questions regarding some shortcomings in the way the outbreak was being dealt with at the meeting with Chandrima Bhattacharya. This is probably the reason why he has been suspended.”

Some NBMCH doctors today expressed shock over Roy’s suspension.

“Anup Kumar Roy was one of the very honest and able principals of NBMCH. A lot of development work was undertaken in his tenure, right from increasing MBBS seats from 100 to 150 to getting post-graduate seats for most of the departments at NBMCH. It was due to his efforts that a fund of over Rs 100 crore was sanctioned recently under the central government’s Prime Minister Swasthya Suraksha Yojana. He was a vocal person who spoke openly about the lack of infrastructure at NBMCH,” a doctor said.

Three health officials — two chief medical officers of health of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts, and the NBMCH superintendent — were suspended by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is the health minister, on July 25 for allegedly not informing the government about the viral outbreak on time.

Samir Ghosh Roy, who was the NBMCH superintendent from June 2006 to October 2010, took charge as the new principal today. He was the principal of National Medical College in Calcutta prior to taking charge as principal here.

Another doctor, Kumkum Bhattacharya, who headed the microbiology department at NBMCH, was today transferred to Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital

“No reason was mentioned for the transfer of Kumkum Bhattacharya. It is probably because of her frequent absence from the department where the Japanese Encephalitis tests are being conducted,” a source said.

Pig catch halt

The animal resource development department has stopped catching pigs from areas that have reported Japanese Encephalitis deaths since August 1 following orders.

“We have received an order from senior officials of our department and we have been asked to stop picking up pigs from August 1. The order has been passed to the block level,” Swarup Bakshi, deputy director of state ARD department posted in Jalpaiguri, said.

A sources in the ARD department said: “Payment of compensation to pig owners is important. There is no clear guideline on how long the pigs would be kept in the farm. There are no instructions for sale or auction of the animals. If pigs keep on coming to the Ramsai farm, accommodating them would be a problem. It seems that all these factors have made the state ARD officials pass the order.”

Subhash Bose, the director of animal husbandry and veterinary sciences, claimed that all pigs from places that reported JE deaths had been picked up. “Blood samples of the animals would be tested at the Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Calcutta. The samples in which antibodies would be found would mean those pigs would never get infected with JE virus. Those animals could be released. We are yet to decide what would be done about those pigs whose test samples show no antibodies,” he said over the phone from Calcutta.