Monday, 30th October 2017

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Hospital for bidi workers sick

A 65-bed hospital set up by the Union ministry of labour and employment here 18 years ago for the benefit of bidi workers has fallen into disuse and disrepair.

By ALAMGIR HOSSAIN
  • Published 15.08.18
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The hospital at Samsergunj. Picture by Samim Aktar

Samserganj: A 65-bed hospital set up by the Union ministry of labour and employment here 18 years ago for the benefit of bidi workers has fallen into disuse and disrepair.

The Tarapur Central Memorial Hospital in Jangipur subdivision, inaugurated in 2000 by then Jangipur MP Pranab Mukherjee, has been built on a 20-acre plot and possess 50 beds, a gynaecology and a paediatric unit, and seven specialist doctors. It was equipped with an operation theatre, a laboratory, an X-ray and ECG machines. It also has a fully subsidised pharmacy. Initially, the hospital had 50 beds but 15 more beds were added in 2003.

Bidi workers and their families were able to avail treatment free-of-cost against their identity cards issued by the ministry of labour and employment.

The hospital saw a steady inflow of patients and robust medical services till 2005. But after 2005, the unit started declining as most employees took transfers or left jobs. Following this, a number of wings at the hospital began to close down. Stocks at the pharmacy began to dwindle, leaving the workers seek outside sources for the treatment and medicines, often beyond their means.

Biplab Sankar, 21, a tuberculosis patient at the hospital, said: "I was admitted around 4am. The doctor has prescribed me medicines that will cost Rs 1,100. Most of these medicines are not available at the local pharmacy. I can't afford the medicines at this rate."

Several technicians also left the hospital, leading to a loss of X-ray and ECG services.

At present, there are five doctors and five nurses at the unit. Of the five, only 2 are permanent. The nurses are employed on contractual basis. And about 10 patients occupy the beds on an average.

Left with no recourse for more complex ailments, bidi workers have to travel longer distances for over the past few years to seek help at Jangipur subdivision hospital, 32km away, or at Malda Medical College and Hospital, 40km from the facility.

The hospital in-charge Jyotirmay Sharma told this newspaper that he had been writing to the welfare commission under ministry of labour and employment for the past two years about the disrepair of the unit but to no avail. " Bidi workers are suffering," he said.