The Telegraph
Thursday , February 23 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Why are you hiding Dr Mahto?

He is there, but he is not there. He is omnipotent, but he is not omniscient. His followers swear by his name, but they haven’t seen him (er, for three days to be precise). Meet the god of all things at Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), director Tulsi Mahto.

Ever since The Telegraph launched a campaign to expose the serious malaise in the functioning of the government hospital in Ranchi three days ago, Mahto has done the vanishing act. Or perhaps, the otherwise publicity-happy practitioner is suffering from a sudden and acute bout of the deadly mediaphobia.

After failed attempts to reach him on phone and in person since Monday, The Telegraph once again landed up at his office at 11.30am on Wednesday. The objective: getting a reaction from the director of a state-run hospital on hooliganism of his junior doctors, denial of bed to an ailing patient and no stretcher trolley for a five-day-old baby on oxygen support.

A nonchalant guard outside his “restricted entry” chamber said: “Sahab, abhi hai nahin. Pata nahin kahan gaye hai (Sir, is not in office. I don’t know where he has gone).”

Other officials at the director’s office too maintained that they were not aware where Mahto was. “He has come to hospital. But he has hundreds of things to look after and is a very busy man,” said a junior at the computer desk.

So, what is the best time to meet him? The employee pointed to a newly introduced notice in Hindi on a door. Translated it read: “Press conference will be held on the 15th and 30th of every month. Visiting time on other days is between 4pm and 5pm.”

This correspondent once again turned up at Mahto’s office at 3.50pm. The director didn’t make an appearance even after 4pm, when the scheduled visiting time starts. The Telegraph waited for him till 4.50pm, but in vain.

Mahto’s phone remained “unavailable” throughout the afternoon and also between 5.15pm and 5.50pm. When called at 5.30pm on his office landline, the operator said what he had perhaps learnt by rote: “Sir is not available.”

His vehicle had, however, not left the hospital premises, which meant he was there — somewhere. More so because small and positive changes were noticed amidst gross mismanagement.

Giridih’s Dasia Devi said her son Rinku Thakur had got a bed and food. “This morning, doctors came to check on him too,” the 55-year-old had a hint of relief in her voice.

Palamau resident Sulekha’s son Umakant Ram still hadn’t got lucky with a bed though he had been given pills and administered saline in the morning, four days after he was admitted. “I don’t know when he will recover. He says he doesn’t feel like staying here anymore,” she said.

An elderly patient, on the other hand, was harassed by staff at the RIMS blood bank. Kanan Bala Devi, admitted to the gynaecology ward, was in dire need of A+ blood. “Operation was scheduled in the morning. I gave my blood for tests yesterday so that I could donate. But still officials said blood wasn’t available. They said tests couldn’t be done and referred me to Red Cross,” said Sanjay Ghosh, a family member.

The matter was finally resolved following the intervention of health minister’s OSD S.B. Dutta. “When I inspected, A+ blood was available in abundance,” he said. She is now preparing a report for the minister and health secretary.

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