The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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VIP death backlash on hospital

Calcutta, March 24: Junior doctors at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital went on a partial ceasework today after a patient’s death on Sunday sparked violence in which doctors and their aides were beaten up, allegedly by CPM-affiliated Coordination Committee members.

The patient (Nabagopal Goswami, a CPM member) was “high-profile”, the striking doctors said, adding that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s wife, Mira Bhattacharjee, visited him a few hours before his death.

Giving an ultimatum of 48 hours to the administration to have the culprits responsible for the violence arrested, they said any laxity in this would force them to launch an indefinite ceasework. Today’s action crippled all outpatient departments.

Doctors held an impromptu meeting in the afternoon where attitudes hardened. “This system of ‘VIP patients’ getting extra attention when state-run hospitals do not have the infrastructure to treat patients in a critical state cannot go on for ever,” Motilal Giri, a spokesperson for the Medical Service Centre, representing medical students and doctors, said.

Even students belonging to the SFI (the CPM students’ wing) and the Association of Health Service Doctors (another CPM-influenced entity) were forced to get into the act to stem a revolt by doctors. “We took up the matter with our principal, Dipti Basu, and made it clear that the practice of blaming doctors and beating them up should be stopped immediately,” senior physician and association leader Jyotirmoy Datta said.

Basu met the director of medical education, Chittaranjan Maiti, after talks with doctors as students laid siege to her room.

Goswami was admitted to bed No. 180 of the hospital’s Rammohan Roy Block with “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with congestive cardiac failure” on Friday. Coordination Committee members would visit him and tell the staff to “make him better”, officials said.

His condition deteriorated on Saturday. “The chief minister’s wife came on Sunday to see the patient and left after meeting doctors,” principal Basu said. The chief minister’s wife was not available for comment, though several calls were made to her residence.

Goswami died a little before midnight and all hell broke loose. N.C. Das, under whom Goswami was admitted, was beaten up — his colleagues said a hoodlum named Akbar led the mob — and so were others at the spot.

“A one-man probe committee has been formed to look into the circumstances of the patient’s death and the following incidents,” director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said.

Director of medical education Maiti echoed him but added that it was not possible for the administration to provide security to “every doctor”.

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