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Where doctors fear to tread

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Raiganj: An attack a day is keeping the doctor away from North Dinajpur.

Frequent assaults on doctors by patients' relatives and their vandalism at health centres and hospitals are prompting new medical recruits to avoid the district in favour of postings several hundred kilometres farther from home.

None among the 237 new doctors the state government recently recruited chose North Dinajpur, said Prakash Mridha, chief medical officer of health in the district.

A health department official said many new recruits from Calcutta and its neighbourhood had preferred Alipurduar and Coochbehar - "over 700km from Calcutta" - to North Dinajpur, whose headquarters Raiganj is "only around 400km away".

Even a North Dinajpur resident, Dr Asgar Aslam of Chakulia block, who was among the 237, chose a rural hospital in Jalpaiguri despite 75 vacant medical posts in his home district.

"We had sent the state health department (a request to fill the) 75 vacancies. When the lists of recruits were published, we found that none of the 237 had opted for the district during counselling," Mridha said.

"We'll send our request again, but we'd also like to say that everybody should cooperate with doctors so they can work in North Dinajpur without any hassles."

Amal Acharya, Itahar MLA and Trinamul district president in North Dinajpur, acknowledged the problem.

"It's disappointing that such incidents are occurring so regularly and have created a sense of insecurity among doctors," he said.

"We have spoken to the police so that stringent steps are taken against the accused and people think twice before resorting to violence in a health centre or hospital."

On August 6, a mob had assaulted a doctor and several paramedics and ransacked the block health centre at Hemtabad, around 6km from here. The attacked had followed the death of a critical patient whom the doctor had referred to the district super-specialty hospital in Raiganj.

Earlier, a doctor and a paramedic were beaten at the sub-divisional hospital in Islampur on July 27. On June 20, a doctor, a nurse and private security guards were thrashed by a mob at the super-specialty hospital.

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