The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Apology, what apology' Sack him, says Subrata

Calcutta, Nov. 4: Dismiss him, no less, and then only mayor Subrata Mukherjee will rest.

Nearly a week into the controversy over storming into SSKM Hospital surgeon-superintendent Debdwaipayan Chattopadhyay’s office and stopping garbage-clearance in an act of retaliation, an apology might have been in order from the mayor.

Far from it. According to the mayor, if anyone should apologise it should be Chattopadhyay and since he has not done so, should be removed from office. “A person who refuses a terminally-ill patient treatment for five days should not be allowed to stay in office,” Mukherjee said.

Last Wednesday, the mayor had swept into Chattopadhyay’s office and threatened him for not admitting a patient he had recommended. Mukherjee also had his civic corporation stop garbage removal from the hospital and gave in only after intervention by the chief minister.

The surgeon-superintendent wrote a letter of apology but, despite its language of abject surrender, the mayor’s wrath is not satiated. Not even the balmy air of Puri, where he is now holidaying with his family, has soothed his anger.

Nor can he comprehend the reasons for the “media circus” around his spat with the hospital official. Why, for instance, cannot the media realise that it was Chattopadhyay who had refused treatment to a very sick patient'

“It was the hospital which refused treatment and other facilities to a terminally-ill patient,” he said, referring to the person, suffering from cancer, he had sent.

“But I am, honestly speaking, very surprised at the media choosing to gloss over the inhumanity of the state’s health-care system,” he added.

The surgeon-superintendent’s argument, on the contrary, is that he had sent the patient to the outdoor ward, which is what the rules prescribe. Patients are not admitted without being referred by the outpatients department.

“It was Chattopadhyay who committed the first crime,” Mukherjee said. “So who should apologise first'” he asked rhetorically, before offering the answer himself. Obviously, it was the surgeon-superintendent.

His own apology — if it comes at all — would follow Chattopadhyay’s removal. “Who was I trying to help by referring a patient to a hospital'” he asked. “It was neither me nor anyone from my family.”

The stink over stopping conservancy services at the hospital — and allowing garbage to pile up inside the wards and on the campus, including the vat just behind the surgeon-superintendent’s office — “for only 24 hours” was also incomprehensible, the mayor said.

“I would have understood the hue and cry if garbage piled up for over a week,” Mukherjee said.

“But all this uproar over no removal of garbage for only 24 hours is something that, at least, I cannot understand,” he added, admitting that he was pained at the media giving so much importance to a “retaliatory act” that failed to match up to the original sin of refusing a patient.

The mayor said he had learnt “at least one lesson”. “This is the last time I am trying to help a journalist,” he said, explaining that the person he had referred to the hospital worked in a newspaper.

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