The Kolkata Municipal Corporation is on a mission to set things right. Many hospitals and nursing homes were built on prime land, on the condition that they would keep some beds free for poor patients. Now they seem to have dunked those promises away along with the hospital garbage.
The KMC has seen that the minimum 10 percent of beds reserved for poor patients are now being allotted to those who are willing to pay heftier bills. Hence the corporation's decision to act tough.
One such case is EEDF at Jodhpur Park. In the sixties, KMC had given an acre of land for a token Re 1 to build the hospital in the late sixties. The conditions laid down in the land transfer agreement required the hospital authorities to reserve 10 per cent beds for the poor. The outdoor fee for "needy" patients was fixed at Rs 5. Three decades down the line, no one seems to remember such an agreement.
Now KMC health officials have brought this to the notice of mayor Bikash Bhattacharya and municipal commissioner Alapan Bandopadhyay.
At the same time, Hospital superintendent A K Chanda insists that they offer special discounts to patients recommended by KMC. He even says that the hospital authorities run a free outdoor clinic. Yet, these hold no water with senior KMC health officials. They point out that the minimum outdoor fee for a patient at EEDF Hospital is Rs 75.
Member, mayor-in-council (health) Subodh De says he is "aware of the anomalies" and will take appropriate steps to stop such malpractices. "We have learnt about the irregularities. We will take appropriate steps," De was quoted.
These violations came to the civic authorities' notice after a senior KMC health official visited Hospital superintendent A K Chanda . It had been handed over to a private healthcare institute in 2005. KMC officials scrutinized the home's register and found that instead of charging poor patients Rs 5 for outdoor treatment, each and every patient was charged Rs 50. Yet, this is not all. KMC health officials found the OT and the labor room were unfit to handle delivery cases.
After a strong report submitted to the top brass, KMC authorities asked the maternity home's management to rectify the anomalies:"I have gone through the report which has clearly pointed out that the agreement was breached. The time has come for appropriate action against the maternity home," De says. Officials of the maternity home have refused to comment.
In another case, a maternity home in Chetla, which was handed over to private hands, has been lying locked for months. Unable to run it, those who took over the clinic simply locked it without informing the KMC health department. "If required, we will break open the maternity home and retake possession," the KMC says.
Meanwhile controversy is brewing over the manner in some KMC health officials are reportedly lobbying with the civic top brass for handing over Champamoni Maternity Home at Tangra to private hands. A senior health official said that if the home were handed over, it would be a "gift to the private party".