Facebook post on dengue earns Bengal doctor suspension from government hospital

The opposition has accused chief minister Mamata Banerjee of concealing the number of dengue patients and deaths in her state.
Arunachal Dutta Choudhury replied to a show cause notice, but he could not satisfy the health department bosses.(Facebook)
Arunachal Dutta Choudhury replied to a show cause notice, but he could not satisfy the health department bosses.(Facebook)
Updated on Nov 11, 2017 06:15 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By, Kolkata

Dengue kills. It also earns suspension for doctors, as Arunachal Dutta Choudhury, an employee of the West Bengal Health Service found to his horror.

On November 10, the doctor who is about 62 and working at the district hospital in North 24 Parganas was handed a suspension order for a purported Facebook post that described the adverse condition in his hospital that is facing a wave of patients over the past few weeks.

Read: Going viral: How dengue has widened its grip across India

Written in Bengali, Dutta Choudhury’s post in October detailed the helpless condition of the doctors. “When the number of patients I was treating was about 100, I knew we were working in warlike conditions, but after it approached 500, I realised it was impossible to wage war,” he wrote.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has maintained that the number of dengue deaths in Bengal is far fewer than other states in the country. Even smaller states have recorded far more deaths, she has said. (HT Photo)
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has maintained that the number of dengue deaths in Bengal is far fewer than other states in the country. Even smaller states have recorded far more deaths, she has said. (HT Photo)

He also wrote that it was impossible to treat the patients not only due to their sheer number, but also on account of the conditions in the hospital. He alleged it is impossible to locate any patient as he might be lost in a crowd of hundreds who occupy every inch of the hospital building -- ward, balcony, passages and alleys. “Even if one can be located, it is difficult to reach him as one has to step on other patients lying just about everywhere,” Dutta Choudhury wrote.

Read: Can you get dengue twice? Read here to find out

Most government doctors say in private that Dutta Choudhury’s description was hardly an exaggeration.

“It is unfortunate that I was suspended. I could have retired at 60, but the state government extended the age of retirement of doctors and I had to work,” Dutta Choudhury told the media.

MoS health, Chandrima Bhattacharya did not take calls. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee holds the health portfolio. Sources told HT he was suspended for not writing unverified information.

In April 2012, Jadavpur University chemistry professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and a neighbour of his were arrested by the police for emailing a spoof. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee later alleged that the spoof, in which she and former railway minister (and Trinamool Congress heavyweight) Mukul were seen, conveyed a message that they would be killed.

Read: Dengue spikes in Punjab with 652 cases in two days

On October 30, Mamata Banerjee claimed only 13 persons have died of dengue in Bengal. Only a week before that chief secretary Malay De told the media that dengue killed 34 in the state.

Dengue has become a politically sensitive topic in Bengal with all the opposition parties -- CPI(M), Congress and BJP -- hitting the streets accusing the Mamata Banerjee government of inefficiency and inaction to tackle the menace. Bengal Congress has filed a few public interest litigations in Calcutta high court too.

The opposition has also accused the government of gaging the doctors by asking them not to write dengue as the cause of death.

“It is an instance of the anarchy prevailing in Bengal. If one speaks the truth, this is what he will face,” remarked BJP state general secretary Sayantan Basu. He also recalled how, in end My 2011, the health department suspended neurosurgeon Dr S P Gorai of Bangur Institute of Neurology, who complained of the crowds in the institute accompanying chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the hospital just about a week after assuming power.

“Withdraw the suspension of Dr A Dutta Chowdhury. Protest against CM’s war against doctors fighting dengue which she failed to do,” wrote CPI(M) state secretary and politburo member Surya Kanta Mishra.

“Rather than suspending Dr A Dutta Choudhury, any reasonable, rational authority honestly committed to people and delivery of standard level of health care as a right of each and every citizen should have taken the post in right earnest and should have taken corrective measures,” said the West Bengal Doctors forum in a statement.

In a latter to the chief medical officer of the district of North 24 Parganas, the Association of Health Service Doctors wrote, “The punishment is undemocratic and a denial of the right of expression.”

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