The patient welfare committee of the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital on the outskirts of Siliguri decided on Wednesday to keep two hearses to carry the bodies of patients to their homes from the hospital for free in case the bereaved kin are unable to hire such vehicles.
This apart, Nischay Yan ambulances under the national helpline would be used at the NBMCH to transport the bodies of infants to their homes.
These decisions were made after Asim Debsharma, a migrant worker hailing from a village of North Dinajpur, on Sunday carried the body of his five-month-old son from NBMCH to his home in a bag by bus as he neither got free transport from the hospital nor could afford to hire a private ambulance that demanded Rs 8,000 from him for the 200km journey.
“Mortuary vans for free service would be introduced here shortly. Siliguri Municipal Corporation will help NBMCH and the district hospitals with such vehicles. We will ensure that anybody who can’t afford the transport cost gets the free service,” said Siliguri mayor Gautam Deb, also the chairman of NBMCH’s patient welfare committee, who held a meeting with officials on Wednesday.
“There are 14 ambulances that provide free service. Those would be engaged to carry the bodies of infants and children if their families can’t pay for transport,” the Siliguri mayor added, urging sensitivity to people in their hour of grief.
At the meeting, it was also decided that along with the two new mortuary vans, only 30 private ambulances can be parked in a dedicated area of the NBMCH at a time.
“Fare charts will also be displayed in the area to ensure that people are not fleeced,” said the mayor.
Asim’s ordeal also made Suman Kanjilal, the MLA of Alipurduar and the chairman of the patients’ welfare committee at the district hospital, circulate his phone number across the hospital so that people in distress can contact him directly.
On Wednesday, the Alipurduar MLA also told the officials and the health staff of the hospital to be alert to the plight of bereaved families who are financially incapable to hire vehicles to carry home the body and proactively take necessary steps to arrange free transport in such cases.
“Many poor people from tea gardens and villages come to the hospital for treatment. In case of any death, the health staff and officials should check whether the bereaved family can afford the transport expenses. I am also circulating my number across the hospital and anybody in distress can contact me,” said Kanjilal.