The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hospital scramble to pin blame on touts

Calcutta, Oct. 14: “Must be touts, not doctors.” That was Calcutta Medical College and Hospital’s knowing response to the allegation that Rs 1,000 was demanded from Shabana Parveen as deposit money for admission.

“It seems they were accosted by touts. No doctor can ask for money this way,” said deputy superintendent of the hospital A. Biswas.

The menace of touts in government hospitals is not new. Hundreds of ailing people are caught in the trap everyday. Most succumb to the demands and pay “extra money” to buy a patient a hospital berth. Shabana must have met with the same fate. But the hospital authorities’ response to the allegation was a grim pointer to an administration that had always looked the other way.

“It appears, the parents fell into the touts’ net as soon as they entered the hospital. When they enlisted the child’s name, the touts identified them and demanded money,” a doctor in the hospital said. He wouldn’t dare be named.

Though there is a police outpost in front of the emergency unit, the policemen deployed there usually turn a blind eye to the goings on. “We are here to look after the hospital’s law and order situation. We are there to protect people if someone tries to ransack the hospital,” said a policeman at the outpost.

But everybody knows how the touts work. “They keep a close watch on patients coming in or going out. Their prime targets are those who come from the fringes of the city or the districts,” said a hospital employee.

Sources said after admission, these intermediaries maintain “vigil” on the patients’ relatives. If anyone needs blood or plasma for his patient, they pounce on them.

“A few months ago, a patient’s relative handed over a prescription written by a hospital doctor to a tout who offered help. The illiterate relative did not realise that the tout added on the prescription the ‘patient needs 10 bottles of blood immediately’. He demanded Rs 10,000 for the blood. The poor relative returned to his village and tried to sell his land. We came to know about it when we saw the prescription. There were several spelling mistakes. We somehow managed to save the poor man from going bankrupt,” said a hospital official.

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