The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Doctors rally for mates
- Demand for withdrawal of child death suspensions

Behrampore, June 27: Government doctors today expressed solidarity with their colleagues who were suspended following a probe into their work ethics in the wake of the child deaths in Murshidabad.

The joint commissioner of the health department’s vigilance wing had filed a report on Tuesday nailing seven doctors for being absent from work in a time of crisis and when all leave had been cancelled.

The colleagues of the punished doctors said the government’s action was “irrational” and that they would launch a “movement” to highlight the issue.

Physicians owing allegiance to the Association of Health Service Doctors set up a picket in front of the office of the chief medical officer of health in Murshidabad demanding that the government revoke the suspension orders immediately. The district wing of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) backed the call.

“The suspensions are a ploy to hide the inherent weakness of the health service administration in the district. The suspended doctors were not even given a chance to place their viewpoints,” said Nirjhar Nath, the association’s district secretary. He added that the doctors were handed a “token showcause” notice and “promptly suspended”.

The joint commissioner of the health department’s vigilance cell, R.P. Banerjee, had identified the doctors, posted in various subdivisional and rural hospitals in Jangipur, Suti and Krishnapur. The department on Wednesday suspended three doctors and issued showcause notices to four others.

Leave for doctors had been cancelled following the deaths, initially believed to be of a mystery fever, but some of them did not return to work. Medical reports confirmed the “mystery fever” was nothing but influenza and could have been contained.

Though the official child toll in Murshidabad over the past few weeks is 20, unconfirmed reports put the count at 70.

Banerjee said a “secret” vigilance unit would be set up in the district to “keep an eye on doctors” who were involved in private practice despite drawing non-practising allowances.

The doctors’ association today issued a warning to district health chief Bijon Mondol. If the suspensions were not revoked, it would embark on a “mass movement”, it said. “We will be forced to launch a strong movement if the suspensions continue,” said Nath.

IMA’s district secretary Arindam Bhattacharya said they are treating the suspensions as “irrational”. “We are not getting doctors to man rural hospitals and health centres and the suspension of those who are working in these areas will not only create a scarcity of physicians but will also send a wrong signal to the medical fraternity and the public,” Bhattacharya said.

“I heard the association’s demand when I met their deputation. I have nothing to comment. I am forwarding their letter to the director of health services in Calcutta,” said Mondol.

Recruitment drive

The government will recruit 1,463 doctors across the state through the Public Service Commission, health secretary Asim Barman said in Calcutta today. The move is aimed at filling up vacancies, which are affecting healthcare in villages.

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