The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Health directorate antidote to KLO

Calcutta, Aug. 27: To take the wind out of the Kamtapuri sail, the state government today decided to set up a separate health directorate in Siliguri, a first in the state.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said a post of an additional director of health services had already been created to head the directorate, which would work in tandem with the North Bengal Development Council.

The new directorate will look after the six north Bengal districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Malda.

“The new directorate will be able to take decisions and action much faster,” Chatterjee said. “Handling emergencies from Writers’ Buildings always took time.”

The decision to set up the directorate came close on the heels of the KLO strike on the CPM party office in Dhupguri, which killed five party workers. The Kamtapuri movement, which had given birth to the militant KLO, had been born out of a perceived sense of neglect in the region. The new directorate is the first government move to combat the KLO’s terror tactics through development.

He said the north Bengal directorate would control the health administration and planning in the six districts. “It will also have financial autonomy.”

With around 10 employees, the Siliguri-based directorate is expected to get rolling in November after a formal approval from the finance department.

Chatterjee said a special team of doctors, formed jointly by the new directorate, the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital and the North Bengal Development Council, would monitor outbreaks of epidemics and infectious diseases in the tea gardens and the tribal belts.

“When an outbreak of diarrhoea was reported in Kalchini, it took (us) over two days to take a decision and send teams of specialists across because of the sheer distance,” Chatterjee said. “Quick decisions are often necessary to combat outbreaks of malaria and unknown fevers in north Bengal districts,” he added.

The official said monitoring the situation had become difficult from Writers’ Buildings. “The new directorate will be effective in such respects.”

The additional director, in charge of the north Bengal directorate, will closely monitor the performance of chief medical officers of health of the six districts and the superintendents of all government hospitals. Chatterjee said the new directorate would help run the hospitals smoothly in the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.

Health officials said the directorate would assist the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in sending serious patients to Calcutta hospitals when necessary. They said the complicated cases were now often referred to Calcutta.

“But it’s not always necessary. Once the new directorate starts functioning, this problem will be taken care of once and for all,” a senior official said.

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