The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Letters to Editor

Premium on comfort

Sir — Why must so much be made of the Indian cricket team’s decision to fly economy class from Johannesburg to Mumbai (“First-class comeback in economy class”, March 26)' The decision was born out of homesickness and dare one say, disappointment, at losing so terribly to Australia — Sourav Ganguly and party were not making any statement with their flight plans. Considering the crores that cricketers earn, it is such needless pampering of cricketers (another example of which would be the tax sops announced for them in this year’s budget) that lends an edge to the soaring expectations of Indian cricket fans. This is also what arouses the envy and provokes criticism from those who play other sports like hockey and football. Since this was a special flight, presumably arranged by Air India to ferry back the Indian cheerleaders in South Africa, why couldn’t arrangements have been made to accommodate the returning runners-up in first class comfort'

Yours faithfully,
R.K. Srivastava, Calcutta

Shock therapy

Sir — Lately, there have been a number of incidents of the relatives of victims of alleged “medical negligence” physically assaulting doctors (“VIP death backlash on hospital”, March 25). Such violence is completely pointless. One, laymen are no judge of medical “malpractice”. Two, it is not always easy to allocate blame even in a genuine case of medical negligence. Senior doctors who decide on the course of therapy are often absent from the hospital for long hours, leaving the house-staff or other junior doctors to follow their instructions. But it is the latter who fall victim to the irate mobs. Besides, has such violence led to any reduction in the so-called malpractices'

However, one can understand why consumers of medical services in India take the law into their hands. There are hardly any forums to redress complaints of medical negligence. The state medical councils, which investigate complaints against doctors, have lost all credibility and anyway, their system of examining complaints is grossly flawed. This explains the rise of citizens forums like the People for Better Treatment, for people with grievances against doctors. And there is cause for hope. After the Supreme Court indicted two-city based doctors in a public interest suit, the West Bengal Medical Council decided on its own to impose a deadline of six months in which to dispose of all complaints.

Medical councils must start taking action against errant doctors or such incidents of doctors being bashed up by the angry relatives of victims will continue.

Yours faithfully,
Kunal Saha, Columbus, Ohio

Sir — The left, and especially the Communist Party of India (Marxist), are responsible for the terrible condition of almost all institutions in West Bengal. Can the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, not ensure that hospitals at least are spared harassment by his partymen' There are few government hospitals in the state and the facilities in the few that are there are very poor. The last thing ordinary patients at the National Medical College and Hospital needed was for political ruffians to add to the disorder and their misery.

Yours faithfully,
T.R. Anand, Calcutta

Sir — Certain facts are erroneously reported in “VIP death backlash on hospital” (March 25). The deceased’s name was Dibyendu Purohit and not D. Goswami; he was admitted to bed number 142, not 180, on Friday evening; his condition, owing to swift and efficient treatment at the hospital from Friday itself, was quite good on Saturday. His ward mates and visitors bear witness to that. In fact he was informed by the doctors that his ECG, taken on Saturday morning, was okay. His condition was not so good on Sunday at 11 am when I visited him. But he was sitting up and was keen to watch cricket on television. Some time on Sunday afternoon, his condition started deteriorating. He was discovered by us at about 4 pm — unconscious and gasping. That is when we desperately started searching for doctors, particularly the house staff of Dr N.C. Das, under whom he was admitted. But for nearly two-and-a-half to three hours, we could not locate them.

Mira Bhattacharjee, who knew the patient, visited that evening. She was persuaded by us to leave after a fruitless wait for the doctor. Dibyendu’s official time of demise is 8.35 pm, not “a little before midnight”. Finally, Dibyendu was an unusual blend of human warmth, idealism and tolerance. The apellation “VIP” divests him of that dignity.

Yours faithfully,
Tapan Mitra, Calcutta

The Telegraph replies: All the confusion regarding the identity of the patient the chief minister’s wife visited at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital on March 23 stems from the fact that she refused to respond to the half-dozen calls The Telegraph made to her residence for over two hours on the evening of March 24. The objective of the calls was to ascertain her view on the incident. Unfortunately, none of the calls was returned or adequately attended. If we had any idea of the presence of Tapan Mitra in the picture, we would have tried to obtain his opinion. Mitra appears on the scene with the disclaimer a little late. The chief minister’s wife might have paid a visit to any other patient lodged at the Rammohan Roy Block of the hospital, but doctors on duty then were unanimous that a part of her conversation with them centred around Naba Gopal Goswami (and not D. Goswami as the rejoinder wrongly mentions), whose relatives invited her attention to his (mal)treatment. We identified a few doctors by name. It would be of great help to the media — and the readers — if people in high places (or those associated with them) respond to media queries and help reporters put an incident in the proper perspective. However, we feel sad at the confusion Mitra mentions and take this opportunity to reaffirm that we, at The Telegraph, always try to be governed by a sense of restraint when reporting affairs relating to hospitals and serious patients lodged there.

Three heroes

Sir — The photograph of Chuni Goswami and P.K. Banerjee congratulating Leslie Claudius on his birthday brought back wonderful memories of a glorious period of amateur sportsmanship (March 31). It pushed back, for the moment, today’s sports world of multi-million dollar contracts and drug abuse. I wish The Telegraph would give news of the present whereabouts of another football hero, the gentle and magical T. Balaram.

Yours faithfully,
Shyamal Bagchee, Edmonton, Canada

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