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Kalimpong: Darjeeling MP Raju Bista on Monday hit out at the West Bengal government and health authorities over the alleged inadequacy of coronavirus isolation and treatment facilities in North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) in Siliguri and other government hospitals across North Bengal.

“I feel saddened to say this, but the NBMCH, one of the oldest, biggest and lone such institution in North Bengal is not ready to fight the battle against COVID-19,” said Bista through a video message.

Bista’s statement comes hours after a woman infected with coronavirus died at the state-run hospital, taking the total number of COVID-19 deaths in West Bengal to two on Monday.

The 45-year-old woman from Kalimpong breathed her last around 2 am at the NBMCH, which was recently selected as a new corona testing centre. She was admitted there for treatment.

“The facilities at the NBMCH could have been better. We could have also saved the woman had she gone through the test and had we known that she was a COVID-19 patient five days ago. But, this, unfortunately, did not happen as the NBMCH has not made the Indian Council of Medical Research approved blood testing lab functional till now.”

The MP said that the lab which was also approved by the government of India was set up 12 days ago but the same is non-operational till now and the blood samples for COVID-19 testing are still sent to Kolkata.

“The samples collected are being sent through cars to Kolkata and this takes around 12 hours. Also the blood samples have to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, so I am not sure if we can count on the test results of the samples being sent, Bista said.

Bista said it was also disheartening to learn that the woman from Kalimpong died a day after being admitted at the NBMCH. “Almost 80% of COVID-19 patients have recovered and are living healthy lives now, but we couldn’t save this woman for even a day. This is because the NBMCH does not have the required facilities or is ready to fight this pandemic,” he said.

Bista said that around 250 nurses of the NBMCH have gone on a strike as they have not been provided with proper personal protections kits (PPEs) till now.

The MP also wrote to Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan urging him to look into the issue.

Bista in his letter said that North Bengal does not have adequate number of beds required in cases of isolation and in NBMCH the general patients are forced to share the same facilities – like same soap, washroom and same hallway as those in isolation.

“This raises the risk of someone being infected by COVID-19 considerably. I have also come to know that doctors, nurses and support staff at NBMCH was supplied low quality PPEs which in turn exposes them, and the entire region to the greater risk,” he said while appealing the Union minister and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to look into the issue.

Meanwhile, a family member of the woman who died on Monday, has posted a video in social media on Monday morning showing the dismal conditions of a government hospital in Jalpaiguri where she and her other family members has been kept in isolation.

The woman who is also from Kalimpong can be seen alleging that the hospital, besides lacking adequate staff, also lacks in proper infrastructure and basic amenities.

She also alleges that no tests have been conducted on them after they were brought to the hospital and nor have the health officials shown any concern. The woman can also be seen complaining about the food and other facilities being provided by the hospital.

When EastMojo contacted Principal Prabir Kumar Deb for his comments on this, he said all allegations made by the woman were baseless. “It is very disappointing to see that despite all the effort being put by the health workers of NBMCH, such videos get circulated and leave a negative impression on our reputation,” Deb said.

“Moreover, making such type of videos without taking permission from the hospital authority is illegal. I have already written to the commissioner of police regarding this,” he said.

“Kalimpong MLA Sarita Rai said the family members of the deceased and those who are in isolation in the Jalpaiguri hospital wants the isolation ward to be clean and tidy as an intensive care unit, which is quite difficult. However, I have spoken with the Kalimpong district magistrate (DM) and as of now the DM with the support of her counterparts from Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri are looking into the matter,” Rai said.

“We should understand that people will panic after watching such videos and may not even opt for screening if they have COVID-19 symptoms. Therefore, rather than posting videos on social media, people should contact the authorities concerned,” Rai said.

The woman and her brother later posted a video thanking the people, especially Gorkhaland Territorial Administration chairman Anit Thapa, for their support.

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