Letter to CM of West Bengal
Chief Minister West Bengal
Ms. Mamata Banerjee
Let me begin by expressing my respect for your zest and energy to initiate the much-desired ‘poriborton’ that state of West Bengal was stripped off since many years. It is this zest of yours that gives me the hope to write to you about the ‘state’ of the state, which I loosely belong to. I recently visited Kolkata probably after a decade and was on a mission to make one last attempt to save my ailing Pishi who had worked at our place for past 25 years.
For many of my friends who hail from various parts of the world the Kolkata is an interesting mix of culture, heritage and development. I would have affirmatively asserted that city stands by their expectations and has managed to be a true welfare state had I not been a first hand witness of the implications of poor infrastructural support at one of the leading medical institutes in Kolkata.
I happened to visit RG KAR recently to continue the line of treatment of my dear Pishi who had been fighting with ‘periampullary carcinoma’ in non-scientific terms ‘pancreatic cancer.’ Her first phase of treatment was successfully completed at AIIMS and I must credit the team of doctors who at every step cooperated, empathized and dedicatedly made an attempt to treat the patient despite various challenges and hurdles.
As a result of circumstantial pressure we had to choose to continue the line of treatment in Kolkata (her hometown) for the last leg of the treatment.
Due to proximity reasons her family showed faith in RG KAR medical college and from family and well-wishers in Kolkata we confirmed its credibility. I only wish I could vouch for the same as what I saw in RG KAR was not just poor infrastructural issue but inhuman conditions in which the patients are being treated.
What I witnessed around me was not just an awful reality of a broken health system but also negligence of the state in setting up accountability mechanisms. With one forced to carry bleeding and bruised patient in arms due to paucity of stretchers I saw people fighting for one single stretcher that they could trace after almost completing a round of treasure hunt. It would have been comical if it were not happening to one of us. I am sure you would agree that infrastructural provisions, which are as minor as availability of stretchers cannot be attributed to paucity of funds, rather sheer lack of effective managerial procedures.
Visuals that I saw inside the hospital still haunt me.
- Given the paucity of beds patients are forced to lie on the floor with just a plastic rug as their bed. To me it appeared as if everyone making an attempt to walk on that floor is trying his or her hand at football (Bengal’s favorite game). Only difference instead of a ball they kick needles, blood stained cotton swabs, empty bottles of medicine and at times hands of the patients lying on the floor.
- With zero sanitation level, I wonder how the doctors manage to evade diseases forget about the condition of the patient who surely gets a lived experience of hell even before succumbing to their disease!
- I am not even getting on to describing the condition of the toilets, which probably are worse than a Gobar Gas Plant.
I am sure for someone who manages the state quite well you must be well acquainted with the conditions of the public health institutes all across the state. But, for someone who has done some amount of travel in at least some districts of India and has managed to take a sneak peek in the public health services offered, the state of RG KAR was a nightmare.
As far as Pishi is concerned she lost the battle and chose to transcend to light. Despite her yearn to live she chose to die peacefully on the cot outside her mud home than the floor of a filthy hospital which as per her was a night in Hell.
I write to you with hope that given the broken structures of the state that you have been trying to refurbish you surely have managed to reinstate the lost hope for many in good governance. I am hoping you would take cognizance of the issue and ensure steps are taken towards not letting a patient die of the fear of the condition of the public hospitals in Kolkata.
I hope you will not disappoint a citizen who still partially believes that the elected members of the country would set examples of good governance and deliver on their responsibilities.