The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Phone mess in medical hub

Siliguri, Oct. 7: The phone bills for North Bengal Medical College and Hospital have come in thick and fast, but with no payments forthcoming, the largest medical centre of the region is now without vital telecommunication connections.

Of the 33 listed numbers in the telephone directory, 11 vital lines are dead because of non-payment of outstanding bills amounting to Rs 3,44,692.

Dial the hospital emergency number and it is somewhat inevitable that the phone will be out of order. Phones at the anaesthesiology, paediatrics and biochemistry departments share the same fate.

Four more telephones, one each at the labour room, the nurses’ training centre and the hostels for house staffs and nurses, were disconnected as the dues had shot up to Rs 1,88,344. The labour room alone has an outstanding bill of Rs 1,46,086.

According to the Sushrutanagar Exchange of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, the college has 33 lines, including three newly-installed ones. The new connections were set up at the departments of dental science and microbiology and the blood bank, which had no telephone till August.

“We disconnected the other 11 lines for non-payment after serving notices several times. The medical college, like any other consumer, can clear the current bill and apply for paying the dues in instalments ,” said a telecom official. The college has done nothing as yet, he added.

The hospital authorities pleaded lack of funds for the situation. “Most departments do not have phones, some of the instruments are lying dead for lack of maintenance. We don’t have enough money to pay the dues,” said hospital superintendent J.B. Saha. He did not comment on how the hospital intends to get the phones ringing again.

While talking to this correspondent, a call came through on one of Saha’s working lines asking for a doctor in the paediatrics department. Saha sent a Class IV employee to inform the doctor. “This is the system here, we have to send subordinates to relay messages to doctors and technicians,” Saha said.

“It is irritating to walk to other departments to receive or make calls,” said R.K. Deb, the head of the ophthalmology department.

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