The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Prescription, but no pills

Behrampore, June 26: A week after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announced here that there was no dearth of essential medicines in state-run hospitals, the district hospital here had only suggestions to offer to a dog-bite victim.

Imam Hossain, 32, had arrived at the hospital’s out-patient department from his village in Daulatabad, 20 km away, complaining that a stray dog had bitten him.

A doctor attended to him. “He wrote a prescription saying I had to be administered the anti-rabies vaccine but when I went to the hospital’s pharmacy, I was told the serum was not available. They asked me to come back after a month,” Hossain said.

On June 19, Bhattacharjee had convened an emergency meeting at the circuit house here with the district’s officials following the spate of child deaths in parts of Murshidabad.

After the talks, he ordered prompt action against shirker doctors and said there was no scarcity of medicines in any state-run hospital in Bengal.

But Hossain was told today there was no medicine for him.

Not knowing what to do he got in touch with a second doctor at the hospital. “He took a look at my prescription and asked me not to depend on the hospital for the vaccine. He told me to procure the medicine from private sources or else I might die of hydrophobia,” Hossain said.

A farm labour, Hossain does not have the money to procure the vaccine manufactured by private companies. “I have heard they are very expensive. Someone told me they cost about a couple of hundred rupees per dose and I do not have the money to pay for them. I have no idea about whether I will get the medicine from the hospital a month later. By then, I am sure I will be dead,” he said.

The hospital authorities had their own version of the situation when asked why such an important vaccine was not available with them.

“It is not that we are the only hospital that does not have any stock of the anti-rabies vaccine. The serum is in very short supply throughout the state. We get about 10 per cent of what we require from the government. We keep a waiting list of dog-bite cases and inform the victims as and when we get fresh stocks,” said hospital superintendent Indranath Chatterjee.

District chief medical officer of health Bijon Mondol had another story to tell. “There is no scarcity of the vaccine anywhere. May be there is some problem in supplies, we should get some in a few days. I have signed the requisition just two days ago,” Mondol said.

Doctors’ protest

Eminent doctors in Calcutta joined hands with medical students today to protest the government’s health and medical education policies.

In a memorandum to the chief minister, they accused the government of suppressing facts and keeping the official child toll in Murshidabad to a minimum. They were also not happy with the tough stand on doctors in the district.

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