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How West Bengal’s rural healthcare is crumbling

Bengal’s health regulatory commission is receiving more complaints from districts than before, its chairperson said on Wednesday.

West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission chairperson Ashim Banerjee said “Of the six complaints that we heard on Wednesday, four were from the districts.”

The commission held two hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday and has fixed two more dates next week. The rise in the number of complaints necessitated such frequent hearing dates, he added.

Behind the seemingly innocuous detail hides a chronic problem of Bengal’s rural hinterland — the lack of access to quality healthcare, said public health experts.

Many of the complaints from the district are related to medical negligence and some to overcharging.

Doctors with experience in public health scenarios in rural Bengal said many patients do not go to government-run hospitals as they fear they will be referred to hospitals in Calcutta or in faraway places that are better equipped.

“If the situation has to be improved, the government has to provide better healthcare facilities at the state-run hospitals in districts,” said a public health specialist.

The smaller nursing homes and other private clinical establishments have mushroomed with the promise to bridge the gap, but in many instances, they lack the wherewithal to handle complicated cases.

One of the complaints that the commission heard on Tuesday was against one nursing home near the Purulia-Jharkhand border. The surgeon left behind cotton following surgery in the abdomen of the patient, which triggered complications. The patient then went to Christian Medical College, Vellore for corrective surgery.

“We have asked the hospital to refund Rs 30,000 that it charged for the surgery and to pay Rs 2.66 lakh as compensation to the family that it had to spend in Vellore in six installments,” Banerjee said. Telegraph India

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