Billed as one of Calcutta’s top multi-speciality hospitals, it was poised for a grand opening on Tuesday. But Eastern India Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Hospital ran into trouble on Day One, after armed hoodlums ransacked the building and chased doctors out of the Strand Road hospital.
Formerly known as Mayo Hospital, a private group took it on a 30-year lease in 1994 to rechristen it and give it a fresh lease of life. But now, it’s back to where it was: locked and deserted, with no one having an inkling of when the doors will be thrown open to patients.
Around 2.30 pm, when the flower-bedecked podium at the hospital was ready to receive guests in the form of former health minister Prasanta Sur, councillor and CPM legislator Sudhanshu Sil and a host of eminent citizens, enter a mob of 50, armed with rods and sticks, threatening to beat up whoever came in its way. “We were stunned. We failed to recognise them, but I tried to reason with the mob, without any result,” said J.C. Ghosh, hospital managing director.
Witnesses said that some unidentified men first grabbed the microphones and started demanding that “all services should be made free for the people”. They proceeded to tear the flower garlands and ransack the podium. “There was nothing we could do. Our newly-recruited staff panicked and fled,” said Ghosh. After a few minutes of chaos, during which Ghosh tried to call in the local police and contact the “distinguished” guests, he finally made his way to the Jorabagan police station, to lodge a complaint.
Later, deputy commissioner of police (north) P. Ravi said he had ordered an inquiry “to get to the bottom of the case”.
Ghosh had been practising in London but decided to come back to Bengal in 1994 and invest in the hospital, at the request of then chief minister Jyoti Basu.
His troubles started soon after taking over the property, as he found that the government had transferred the staff, but their families had stayed on. “We filed a case in the high court and after a few years, the 250 families could be evicted,” Ghosh said.
Also, property tax had not been paid for 14 years. Ghosh had to clear it. “A surgical goods company, which wanted to open a pharmacy on the premises, then filed a case against us,” he continued. A month ago, Ghosh obtained a stay on the case from the high court and set the date for the opening.
No one is quite sure who instigated the ‘inaugural’ attack. Health secretary Asim Barman said he was unaware of it.
Local CPM councillor Sil, however, made it clear that he was unhappy about the hospital being reopened. “The government has been tricked into giving the property on lease. We are trying to put up some kind of resistance. I have lodged complaints with state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, stating that a hospital heading for liquidation should not be allowed to open.”