To protest the government’s “anti-people health policies”, which include lowering the health budget by Rs 142 crore, and the poor state of government hospitals in the city, the Haspatal-O-Janswasthya Raksha Committee (HJRC), comprising doctors, nurses and hospital staff, has decided to launch a series of demonstrations, starting Monday.
Coming out openly in support of the SUCI-sponsored 24-hour bandh on Monday, HJRC secretary Tarun Mondol said healthcare had reached “a pathetic state”, with unqualified private groups being handed over various health departments. He said patients were being fed low-quality diets at a high cost and charged heavily for unreliable diagnostics.
The committee will organise demonstrations and rallies to protest the poor state of healthcare at various hospitals in Calcutta and the districts. Among other issues, it will demand installation of CT scan machines, in collaboration with private agencies, in government hospitals, where “only CPM cadre and associates of the owners are getting priority”, while needy patients continue to languish.
“In the name of turning the state-run hospitals into centres of excellence, they are charging a lot of money from poor patients, and giving only a token facelift to certain medical departments,” says Mondol.
The government has plans to hand over the proposed dialysis centre in Burdwan, the urology centre at the National Medical College and Hospital, the cardio-thoracic surgery unit at RG Kar Hospital and the neurosciences centre at Medical College and Hospital to private parties.
The HJRC members are particularly upset at the government’s neglect of the tuberculosis institutes in the state. “The bed strength at the K.S. Roy TB Hospital has been curtailed. How can they even think about this when a TB death is reported in India every minute'” a HJRC spokesman asked.
The panel will also raise the issue of faulty and neglected equipment. An image intensifier at National Medical College and Hospital, bought for Rs 30 lakh, incubators at MR Bangur Hospital, the MRI machines at SSKM Hospital and an USG machine at Purulia District Hospital, are all lying in a state of neglect.
Also on the HJRC protest agenda are rampant retrenchment of workers in the health sector, a freeze on fresh appointments, the decision to increase MBBS tuition fees from Rs 18 to Rs 1,000 per month, and hostel seats from Rs 12 to Rs 500 per month.
“The decision to increase fees and introduce capitation fees, by which candidates can purchase MBBS seats, is a design of the government to convert medical institutes into self-financing ones. But, all this will come to nought and the doors of medical education will shut forever on poor students, who can’t pay such exorbitant fees. They should not commercialise education,” Mondol said.
Metal Box protest
Workers of Metal Box India on Tuesday announced plans to block Brace Bridge, off the Taratala Road-Hyde Road intersection, on January 31.
The workers will demand the reopening of the company, shut for 12 years, and protest the “indifference” of the state and Central governments towards their plight.
Secretary of Metal Box Workers’ Union Aloke Mukherjee claimed that at least 300 workers had died over the past 12 years. Of them, 10 had killed themselves.