Tuesday, August 28, 2012

State of Bengal desires to make Hospital for Minorities

Controversies rising ugly heads about reservation in treatment

Bengal government is all set to develop an especial medical college and also super specialty hospital for the treatment of people belonging to the minority community in the state. Land has also been bought at Bhangar, District: 24 Paraganas (South), to make this a reality. However, controversies regarding whether it is possible to dedicate a medical institution to any particular religious community have started to grow up.  Beds in hospital will be reserved based on religious identity – even if Medical Council of India (MCI) have started to raise objections in this context, Bengal government remains firm over its decision.

To have permission from the Planning Commission regarding the very proposal, Minorities Development and Finance Corporation of State Government has already sought the DPR (Detailed Project Report) from the Public works Department.    

Medical Council of India has already stated in clear terms no religious quota is pertinent as regards admission of any ailing person in hospital. As per one of its officials, “Does a patient have any religion? A patient is a patient.” In accordance with another official, “As blood collected in a blood camp can’t be differentiated, beds in any hospital have the same fate. He who has the need of it will be admitted only. There can’t b anything else.”

According to dictums of Supreme Court of India, no hospital can return any patient without treatment. Medical Council of India considers if an individual of any religion is not admitted in the said (proposed) medical institutions, it will be a gross violation of orders of Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, all these have failed to perturb the reigning Bengal government. On the word of Sushanta Banerjee, Director of Medical Education – Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bengal, “Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has taken the decision to build up such hospitals. And to survey the selected land I will soon go to Bhangar.” It is to be noted, the very land worth 22 acres belongs to Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

In accordance with initial planning of Department of Health and Family Welfare, the very land at Bhangar has been picked out to build up a Multi Specialty and Super Specialty Hospital of 500 beds and Medical College of 100 beds there – for the minority people in the state. What is more, from Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF), an amount of 40 crores has already been allotted. By the way, there is a need to send DPR to get money from BRGF. And to create the same report Minorities Department has sent a letter to PWD. The letter also states, “construction of Hospital and Medical College for treatment of patients of minority people in the state.”

Well, 40 crores will be available from BRGF. But reports of Department of Health and Family Welfare state, there is the need to have 100 crores for setting up a Medical College. How will the rest be gathered then?

As indicated by sources in the department, the concept of public-private partnership, in this regard, was thought of in the beginning. But Chief Minster wants that the Medial College would function under the auspices of the State Government. Hence, the idea of PPP has been deferred.  One official of Health Department states, “CM does apprehend, reservation beds will cease to exist if the hospital is privatized. As a result, government will make great efforts to collect the remaining amount of money.”

But it is not clear yet how the government will succeed in this regard. There is another question – where will teacher-doctors for the new Medical College come from. The sole reason being three Medical Colleges in the state viz. Sagar Dutta, Malda and Behrampur are just staggering due to paucity of teacher-doctors.  Owing lack of proper infrastructure, Medical Council of India (MCI) called off admission procedure in the above-mentioned three colleges. Well, after submitting a recognizance citing that all would be done in the following one year, the approval has been won back.

Who will read in the new Medical College in such a situation?  But an official of State Health Department states with confidence, “Due to lack of doctors in Bengal there is a pressing need to create more Medical Colleges. A few problems will surface in the beginning but will be solved before long.”

Sources in State Health Department avow, notion of reservation was stated in both sectors – seats of students in Medical College and beds of patients. Nonetheless, a few days back Supreme Court of India censuring the approach of reservation as found in both Andhra Pradesh and Kerala accentuated merit. In such a situation, Bengal Government is not ready to reserve seats in the new Medical College on the basis  of religion. Bikram Sen, Secretary, Minority Affairs Department, states, “There is a plan to create the new Medical College at Bhangar following the footsteps of Christian Medical College in Vellore or the Medical College under Aligarh Muslim University.” How do these two institutions function?  

As stated by management of Vellore College, “There is no religion-based quota regarding admission of students in the college, let alone admission of patients in the hospital. Mohammed Junaid, on behalf of Aligarh Muslim University, has informed, “Merit happens to be the sole factor of education in their college while seriousness of disease happens to be the only factor as regards admission of patients in hospitals. Reservation is out of the question.”

How is Government of Bengal going to adopt such a decision then? The government is found to be tight-lipped, in this regard. But Sushanta Babu states, “What’s the need to hurry? Each and every development will tell the whole story.” Again an official of Medical Council of India (MCI) states, “We have not received any written proposal thus far regarding such an approach of Bengal Government. If there is any written proposal with such intentions from the Bengal Government, we will certainly make our viewpoint in public.”     



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