Baghajatin State Hospital in South Kolkata – The Privatisation of Healthcare in West Bengal

March 6, 2011

Contents:

1. Press Release from Activists – March 31 2011
2. The government signs MoU – Early 2011
3. Background of privatisation moves and protests till Dec 2010

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1. Press Release from Activists

March 31 2011: Some activists were attacked and assaulted by CPIM goons on 26th march morning in Gangulybagan, Jadavpur while distributing leaflets against the MOU signed to privatise Baghajatin State General Hospital. There are regular protest programs going on against the step towards privatisation.

PRESS RELEASE

Baghajatin State General Hospital came into being in the year 1991 as a consequence of persistent struggle by the toiling masses of Baghajatin, and adjacent colonies for a Govt. Medical service facility. There was no Govt. hospital other than N.R. Bangur at Tollygunge. N. R. Bangur, the district hospital of South 24 Parganas, was always over-crowded and unable to provide necessary medical services as quickly as it was required. That’s why foundation of Baghajatin State General Hospital came as a blessing for the common people of the locality as also for the vast stretch of South 24 Parganas.

But it is a matter of great regret that, apart from initial 2/3 years, the health Deptt of W.B. Govt. has been showing its total apathy and irresponsible gesture in conducting the hospital affair including its administration. The hospital has all necessary department, including Emergency, Gyno, maternity, eye, paediatry, ENT, Dental, general Medicine and surgery. It has also the facility of pathological and other tests like X-Ray, ECG, USG. It has equipments for micro-surgery, Laporoscopy etc. There is a comprehensive provision for free supply of prescribed medicines. But unfortunately almost nothing is available when patients come for treatment. Doctors are not found on time, nurses are careless, medicines out of stock, pathological tests are to be done from outside, emergency Dept. is also in an ineffective condition, food for the patients have been outsourced to a caterer, thus quality has been compromised. The basement of the hospital has been handed over to Band Box for last 3 years, where they clean used Garments of patients and doctors of 16 city hospitals and emit polluted waste to the atmosphere without any necessary treatment.

This is the exact miserable picture of Baghajatin State General Hospital .

Under this circumstances, three local organizations, Nagarik Udyog (Jadavpur), Baghajatin Hospital and Janasasthya Raksha Committee and forum for peoples’ health came to-gether to launch a social movement with a view to communicating the extent of malady to the common people and forcing the hospital authority to take appropriate and effective curative measures we undertook uninterrupted programme like postering, leafletting, mass rally, mass convention, mass deputation to the hospital super time and again along with honerable M.P. Kabir Suman (Jadavpur Constituency), appeal of the eminent personalities and inter-active discussion with the doctors of the hospital including superintendent.

These of our continuous efforts have started to give some positive results, in respect of medical services in the hospital, at that moment, just on the eve of declaring the date of election of Bidhan Sabha, on 28/02/11 the Govt. of West Bengal signed a MOU with a Mangalore – based NGO ‘Asraya Charitable Trust’ to hand-over a considerable portion of the hospital to open their private clinic. This is totally against the opinion and sentiment of the people in general and local public in specific. This is nothing but selling off the Public Property to a private party for its business defying the common interest of poor and needy people. We unhesitatingly condemn this move of the W.B. Bengal Govt. as it is reactionery and anti-people. In our conscious consideration this is simply a part of the bigger ugly game of the Govt. of West Bengal to shift its own responsibility for providing medical facilities to the common people of the state in the hand of private profit – mongers.

This we protest strongly and demand to scrap the MOU immediately.

Nagarik Udyog, Jadavpur,
Baghajatin Hospital O Janasasthya Raksha Committee
Forum for Peoples’ Health
(Jadavpur-Tollygunge Unit)

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2. Addendum: Confirming apprehensions of a section of the local people, towards the beginning of 2011 the state government has signed an MoU for privatization of Baghajatin hospital with a Mangalore-based business group. Thousands of people of South 24 Parganas are dependent on this hospital. For a long time the rulers have kept the hospital in a state of abject neglect, as a ruse to justify privatization. The MoU was signed in haste, immediately before the announcement of elections. Fearing such an eventuality people of the area have been organizing a movement for last few months. A number of organizations had come together to form the movement. They collected signatures, organized meetings, processions, sit-ins and other programmes. Many notables of the localities had associated with the movement. After the MoU has been signed the movement would be intensified. In the meanwhile protest processions have been taken out, deputations have been sent to the hospital superintendent.

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3. Background of Hospital Privatisation

From ShramikShakti, Dec 2010. Translated by Debarshi Das, Sanhati.

When Baghajatin State General Hospital in South Kolkata suburbs was founded people of the locality and South 24 Parganas district hoped to get good medical treatment at low cost. The nearest government hospital is M R Bangur hospital which is overcrowded with thousands of patients, the doctors are stretched to the limit. After Baghajatin hospital came up people thought they would get medical treatment without hassle. Sad but true, those hopes were belied. A movement has been going on under the aegis of Jadavpur Citizens’ Initiatives Forum for last few months on this issue. It started with a people’s convention in the month of May, 2010. Afterwards, through data collection, mass signature, awareness programme the campaign is carrying on.

There is a common complaint that health services of acceptable quality is not available in Baghajatin hospital. Moreover, although facility for medical tests is available, patients do not get the benefit of it. On the basis of these complaints data have been collected from the hospital. The data testify to the allegations. Through the RTI one got to know that facilities for all these tests are there in the hospital. In other words, the reason for the sad state of Baghajatin hospital lies in the indifferent attitude of those who are supposed to provided the right health services. Ironically, there is a colossal hospital building and other infrastructure in place; crores of rupees are being spent on salary, maintenance.

A demand was also raised that the hospital cannot be handed over to private health businessmen under any excuse. Similar thing was done in case of Jadavpur TB hospital which was handed over to the NRI KCP group (for Re. 1).

On 24th December, 2010, citizens’ forum organized a gathering of local people in front of the hospital gate. A deputation visited the hospital superintendent along with a charter of demands with signatures.

Some successes were achieved courtesy the ongoing movement. Earlier although test facilities for blood, stool, urine, cough were there, they were not put to use. Now these are being utilised. X ray, ultrasound, ECG tests were not done. Now they are operational. The generator has been repaired. On the allegation that indispensable medicines are not available in the hospital the superintendent says that the state health department is not providing all the medicines. Those which are being sent are not effective in many cases. The doctors are getting compelled to prescribe other better medicines, patients are being forced to buy them from outside.

The superintendent was compelled to admit that doctors are many a time not present on duty, they are not even available in emergency departments. He blamed this on dearth of doctors and lack of cooperation by a section of the doctors. Those spearheading the movement demanded that the superintendent has to take the responsibility to fill the vacancy of doctors. If doctors do not cooperate it is he who is responsible. Patients not getting treatment because of hospital’s callousness is unacceptable.

The hospital is supposed to have surgery facility. Microsurgery, laparoscopy, eye surgery – all facilities are supposed to be available. Yet none is. The superintendent responded that in spite of having the equipments for surgery, surgical department is not operational because eye specialists, anesthetist, group D employees are not available. In spite of repeated intimation the government is not appointing the required man-power.

Food for hospital patients comes from the outside caterers, there is no monitoring of food quality.

In the basement of the hospital, clothes and bed sheets of 16 hospitals are washed. The place is so dirty and polluted that it may cause diseases rather than healing them. Moreover although these jobs are for government hospitals, they have been outsourced to the private company ‘Bandbox’. Representatives of civil society protested against this step towards privatisation. Superintendent says he is simply implementing the government directives, he has no say on this matter.

Conceding to demands, the superintendent has promised that a list will be publicly displayed containing list of doctors according to departments, time of duty of doctors, list of medicines, number of beds. He has also promised to keep the indoor patients department clean.

But the most worrying part is, the government is moving towards handing over the hospital to private management. Already three private parties have inspected the hospital, they were accompanied by government officials. The third party is a Bangalore-based health businessman. They have even done survey of the premise. After closing down the government hospital they would open a neuro-facial clinic. This is a project to import western technology which would unwrinkle skin, beautify bodies through use of cosmetic treatment. The owners would earn millions on the side.

If this comes about it would completely jeopardise health facility of thousands of poor people in the Baghajatin-Jadavpur area along with extensive region of South 24 Parganas. To resist the anti-people conspiracy what is needed is collective action and struggle involving many people. Jadavpur Citizens’ Initiative has made promise to take forward that movement.