The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bank wants doctors nailed

Calcutta, March 14: A World Bank delegation touring the state today expressed 'serious concern' over doctors and nursing staff shirking work and prescribed stern steps to cure the malady.

At a meeting with health department officials, the 10-member team discussed at length problems affecting the healthcare system, particularly at the primary level, and sought a clear picture of steps being taken to instill 'discipline' among health workers.

Ahead of making a promise to pump funds into the state's health set-up, the bank pressed for details of steps taken to curb 'absenteeism' and, at the same time, expressed displeasure about the present system of surveillance.

The team detected the loopholes in the health system at the primary level while touring Birbhum and Bankura.

If it finally agrees to provide the funds, it would be the second instance of it giving money for Bengal's healthcare. In 1996, it had offered a soft loan of Rs 700 crore for State Health Development Project II.

A senior health department officer today said: 'The delegation was keen to know on how many instances an erring employee was asked to show cause and if any action was initiated against health workers who bunked duty often.'

The government, on its part, explained the steps it takes against those who go on long leaves without citing reason or have been charged with misappropriation of funds.

It is not the World Bank alone. The chief minister, too, has often expressed concern about doctors either not turning up for work or fleeing to cities from district hospitals.

The bank has also expressed its concern on increasing incidence of infant mortality and called upon the mandarins to make immediate changes in infrastructure and manpower. With 48.5 deaths for every 1,000 babies, Bengal ranks third after Kerala and Tamil Nadu in infant mortality.

'We've expressed our objective to bring down the figure to 30 with the necessary support,' said director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee.

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