Neither State Nor Centre Serious about Covid Crisis, Says Forum as Bengal Loses 5 Doctors During Durga Puja Revelry

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As the state revelled during the festival of Durga Puja, five doctors succumbed to the Covid-19 infection, said the West Bengal Doctors’ Forum (WBDF). The deaths add to the nearly 500 nationwide casualties of doctors, out of which, 64 are from West Bengal.

Dr Koushik Chaki, the WBDF Secretary, said, “It is unfortunate that we have lost 64 doctors, so far. They all were our COVID warriors and they sacrificed their lives to serve the people. My condolences to their family members. Compared to the national average, Bengal's casualties are higher and that is a matter of concern.”

The doctors who passed away during the festival are Dilip Bhattacharya, Sujan Kumar Mitra, Amal Roy, Saibal Dasgupta and Dilip Kumar Biswas, the WBDF said. While Dr Bhattacharya was a gynaecologist, there were general physicians, medicine doctors and former assistant medical officer of ESI Hospital in Barasat (North 24-Parganas district) whose demise the state is grieving for.

“If you see the list (of doctors who died), there are a significant number of doctors who got infected and succumbed to it, while imparting active medical service for ‘Non Covid-19’ patients. There are ophthalmologists, ENT specialists, orthopaedician, dentists and many family physicians. The demarcation of potential risk was blurred between COVID and non-COVID patient care. Both categories of health workers are being equally vulnerable, due to large numbers of asymptomatic patients and community spread and lack of point of care testing in private healthcare,” Dr Chaki said.

He said that "neither the Centre nor the state government" have realised the gravity of the crisis. "The indifference unfortunately continues, haunting the medical professionals struggling in this war,” he said.

In the context of their demand for giving ‘martyr’ status to the doctors who died while serving people in the pandemic, the doctor said, “Nothing has been done so far in this regard, except that the wife of one of our deceased colleagues was recently offered a government job in Bengal.”

Earlier, this month, two doctors, Debasish Samanta and Arghya Sen, passed away in Bengal. While Dr Samanta was an orthopedic surgeon, Dr Arghya Sen was a celebrated practitioner. On April 26, 2020, a senior medical officer Dr Biplab Kanti Dasgupta passed away after testing positive for the deadly virus COVID-19. He was the Assistant Director, Health Services, West Bengal.

In a strongly worded letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Bengal Doctors' Forum on Friday had raised serious concerns over a possible spike in Covid-19 cases in the state due to firecrackers during Diwali.

"Social norms need to be strictly imposed. In case of non-compliance scope of penalisation need to be put in place. We need to take visible, proactive steps in the right direction. Lip services won’t suffice. We need to understand the real time scenario and act prudently,” the WBDF letter read.