Time stands suspended at neuro hospital

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By SANJAY MANDAL
  • Published 11.06.12
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A year and a fortnight after chief minister Mamata Banerjee suspended Shyamapada Ghorai from the post of Bangur Institute of Neuroscience (BIN) director — one of her first administrative actions since assuming office — little has changed at the state-run hospital. Worse, advanced and critical surgeries, once performed by Ghorai, are now hardly conducted.

Critical patients continue to be turned away for lack of beds. “I reached the out patients’ department at 10.30am. The doctor in the medicine department sent me to the surgical OPD, where I was advised admission at 1.30pm. An hour later, I was told there was no bed vacant,” Paresh Nath Chakraborty, 40, a resident of Nalikul in Hooghly, told Metro last week. A worker at a rubber goods manufacturing unit, Chakraborty has been paralysed waist downwards since last Saturday. His family members said he had been asked to return after a week.

Shibani Sarkar, 55, a nursing staff at Basirhat sub-divisional hospital who was detected with brain tumour a fortnight ago, had a similar experience. She was admitted to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, from where she was referred to BIN last Monday.

“She was refused admission as there was no bed vacant. We have been asked to come again after a week,” said sister Jyotsna Biswas, adding that there was no trolley at the hospital and that Shibani had to be carried in.

Only 10 beds have been added to the hospital in the last year, taking the present count to 138. The eight-bed neuro ICU was to be extended by adding three ICU and two high-dependency unit beds. “The extended section is yet to become functional,” said a doctor at BIN.

Inadequate number of beds isn’t the only problem at BIN. Cats, rats and roaches still reign in the wards and the old magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment is so slow that patients are asked to get MRI done elsewhere.

Doctors also said that the number of critical surgeries such as transsphenoidal pituitary tumour surgery— a process by which a tumour is removed from the pituitary gland endoscopically through the nose — and advanced surgeries of cerebral aneurysm conducted at BIN had gone down drastically.

“Many of the patients are poor and they can’t afford private hospitals. So they have to go outside Bengal now,” said Ghorai, who used to conduct the advanced surgeries.

Ghorai now sees patients at a private clinic and conducts a few surgeries at a private nursing home after 5pm and on holidays.

A year after suspending Ghorai for “misconduct”, chief minister Mamata Banerjee visited the institute on Saturday to inaugurate a digital subtraction angiography unit installed during Ghorai’s tenure at a cost of Rs 7 crore. “The equipment, used to show images of blood vessels, is yet to become fully functional,” an official at the institute said.

Health officials could not recollect another instance when action had been taken against a doctor for misbehaving with the chief minister. “I have never heard of any such instance in my 34 years of service. Charges of misbehaviour or insubordination are extremely difficult to prove,” said an official who retired recently.

The Telegraph was present when the chief minister, on her way to Writers’ Buildings, had stopped her car in front of the Bangur Institute of Neurosciences on Sambhunath Pandit Street on May 26 last year.

The health department issued a showcause notice to Ghorai on July 27, 2011, under “sub rule 4 of rule 10 of the West Bengal Service (Classification, Control and Appeal) rule 1971. The doctor was charged with “misconduct by non-cooperation with the chief minister during her surprise visit”.

The formal chargesheet, issued on January 2, stated Ghorai was guilty of misconduct by non-cooperation during the chief minister’s surprise visit which was “unbecoming of a government servant”.

“I received the chargesheet more than seven months later. I sent my reply within 20 days and there was a hearing,” said Ghorai, who denied the charges and said he had spoken to the chief minister “with folded hands”, producing as proof his photographs published in newspapers .

“As a mark of protest, I have not been taking my suspension allowance since I have done nothing wrong,” he said. A government employee put under suspension receives the basic pay. If he or she is cleared of the charges, the government pays the entire salary due.

“Inquiry is on. It’s a long-drawn process and can take time,” said a senior health department official.

But health officials said Ghorai had little chance of being acquitted. “He is extremely highhanded and is still denying that he had misbehaved with the CM. One can’t argue with the CM and this amounts to insubordination,” an official said. “The matter probably would have been settled had he apologised.”