Calcutta, May 31: For the past month, the garbage heap near the isolation ward at Beliaghata’s Infectious Diseases Hospital had been “untouchable”. The patients complained but no one bothered.
It is in this ward that the suspected SARS patients were lodged and fear of contracting the disease kept cleaners away.
All that changed this morning when news arrived that Union health minister Sushma Swaraj would visit the hospital, one of the many she will “inspect” during her day-long tour to the city tomorrow.
Now, swarms of employees are working on the garbage, getting it together and then setting it on fire, not bothering about the noxious fumes invading the wards.
“Earlier, the smell of rotting garbage and medical wastes had made it impossible for some patients to breathe and when we told them to remove the garbage, no one did a thing,” said Swapan Samaddar, a relative of a patient. “Now, no one is concerned about the fact that the smoke is troubling the patients.”
Over a 100 shanties on the hospital premises have been removed and the roads leading to its three wings are being repaired to make them “more motorable”.
Swaraj will be in the city primarily to flag off the pulse polio programme at the B.C. Roy Polio Hospital. Bengal has the highest number of polio cases, with 48 recorded last year and 23 so far this year.
Also on the itinerary of the health minister are visits to the National Institute for Cholera and Enteric Diseases and the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, where, too, “operation clean-up” is in progress.
“I have come all the way from Midnapore to get a detailed medical investigation done for my three-year-old son, but the staff here said they are too busy cleaning up the hospital for the minister’s visit and have asked me to return on Monday,” said Rubiya Mondal at the B.C. Roy Polio Hospital.
Mondal will now have to take the bus back to Midnapore with her son and come back later to get him treated.