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Why are doctors refusing to join Silchar Medical College and Hospital? An Analysis

Silchar does not screen “Avengers”, does not have high tech schools and colleges, do not have amusement parks like “Imagica” or “Essel Worlds”. Hardly any nightlife-good places to wine or dine. “Ketty Perry” or “Justin Bieber” or “Coldplay” concerts do not take place in Silchar and if someone wants to attend them in other parts of the country, communication is a massive obstacle. However, it does has better air quality, greenery, and much better weekend destinations that  ‘Lonavala’ or ‘Mahabaleshwar’.


But it seems, the cons always outweigh the pros at least when it comes to doctors taking up jobs in Barak Valley.


25-year-old Sayantan Chakraborty died on October 8, 2019, following a cardiac arrest. He needed to undergo angioplasty but Silchar Medical College and Hospital could not facilitate that due to lack of resources. The young boy’s shocking death got a lot of people to the roads protesting, demanding for better medical facilities.


In Silchar Medical College and Hospital, neurosurgery and cardiology departments lack specialists and that is something the principal cum chief-superintendent himself admitted in an interview after he joined. However, the new principal and current government much like their predecessors failed to appoint specialists.


A highly placed source in Silchar Medical College and Hospital said that Minister of Health, Himanta Biswa Sarma has told the hospital to find and appoint doctors for whatever they ask in terms of monetary compensation. Yet, what is told time and again is that no one is willing to accept an appointment from Silchar Medical College and Hospital.


Beginning of this month, as per sources, Dr. Manas Bora, a neurosurgeon currently practicing in private hospitals in Delhi and Gurgaon was approached by the hospital. A former student of the current Principal, Dr. Babul Bezbaruah, Bora had reportedly accepted the appointment. Bezbaruah while speaking to Barak Bulletin back then had said, “Yes, we have approached him and he is likely to join.” He also added a caveat, “We cannot say anything unless he officially joins.”


He was supposed to join on November 15, 2019, but he did not. Principal Babul Bezbaruah did not comment on Bora’s decision to reject the appointment and said, “The search is on.”


Sources close to the development have informed Barak Bulletin, that after Manash Bora was given the appointment, Dr. Dibanath Chakraborty, another senior neurosurgeon who visit Barak Valley once in a while to attend patients in private hospital had also expressed his willingness to join SMCH. “Dibanath Chakraborty is senior to Manash Bora and if both would have joined SMCH, Bora would have had to report to Chakraborty, something the department believes has triggered him to not accept the offer,” said a senior doctor in Silchar Medical College and hospital on condition of anonymity.


Manash Bora did not receive our calls and the Principal did not wish to comment on the subject, so, there is no confirmation or rejection of the information given by the source. The fact of the matter is, neither Dibanath Chakraborty nor Manash Bora is joining SMCH’s neurosurgery department and the search for cardiologists is on.


It is not that doctors from outside have never traveled to Silchar which cures patients not only of Barak Valley but adjacent states as well. Dr. Kumar Kanti Das, popularly known as Lakhan Das was well settled in the world’s largest economy, the United States of America but he returned to Barak Valley and is now worshiped as God by his patients. He practices out of Sundar Mohan Seba Sadan commonly known as Kalyani Hospital in Srikona. While in Lakhan Das’ case it was his call from birthplace that got him back, for Dr. Ravi Kannan it was something else.


Kannan was an established oncologist at Adayar Cancer Institute Chennai. The Cachar Cancer Hospital Society requested him to join and he with his wife and daughter packed their bags after realising, “There is so much to do.” It has been more than a decade he is serving the people and curing cancer in Barak Valley. When he joined the Cachar Cancer Hospital, he had 23 staff, today the number exceeds 250. It was a different culture, a different language, his daughter had to take admission to a new school and whatnot. Yet he sticks on… why we asked him.


“The society has given me free hand to do whatever I feel is appropriate and that is why,”  he replied. Adding, “At every instant, they back me and they have never let me down. They have never ever played politics with me or my staff. I was very well placed in Chennai when the society invited me to come here and I had to practically start from scratch. So the free hand was extremely critical for me as I would have otherwise not able to do so. This is not to say that society should not initiate course correction, should something go wrong. I have a great equation with the society members and they did not interfere at any stage.”


He mentioned that he has different people working with him in different departments and he gives all of them a free hand. “I do not go policing staff unless I have a constructive criticism to offer. As a result, what happens is everybody starts to own the system. So, I do not own the system, they also own the system,” he added.


He believes he could function the way he wanted only because the Cachar Cancer Hospital is a private hospital, “If it was a government hospital there would have been so many compulsions that nobody could have handled. What you can do in a private hospital, you cannot in a government institution,” he opined.


What would motivate a doctor to move to Silchar in a situation where the administration time and again is coming out in public and admitting that doctors are not accepting appointments despite offering a hike? Kannan replied, “Money is important but it is not the only thing that matters. When you start the money matters most but as you grow, other things become more important. Somebody coming to the valley from outside would want to make a difference, make an impact.”


Often Silchar, being in the periphery, is held responsible for doctors refusing to take up a role in SMCH. However, Kannan does not agree, “I never faced any difficulties with regards to my daughter’s education or with the lifestyle. Wherever I went in Silchar or any other parts of the country I never felt I do not belong here. India is one country and nowhere in this country I feel am a stranger,” he said.


A former principal of Silchar Medical College and Hospital and renowned Orthopaedic surgeon Sujit Kumar Nandi Purkayastha feels Silchar being geographically placed in one corner of the country is an obstacle but according to him its not a hard block. “One doctor has refused and so it would be wrong to put that no doctors are willing to take up a job in Silchar Medical College and Hospital,” he said.


Purkayastha believes SMCH needs Neurosurgery and Cardiology department and specialists immediately. “If the government tries it can get doctors. When we were students we did not have specialists in so many other departments, now we have got them. The state can go to centre and mandate a 3 or 5-year deputation in Silchar Medical College and Hospital and that can be a solution,” he added.


What Purkayastha believes could be a reason why doctors are skeptical is the lack of resources. “One specialist doctor cannot run a department, he or she needs infrastructure, team, and support from the administration and the government. If that is ensured, I don’t see any reason for doctors refusing an appointment,” he opined.


While Sayantan Chakraborty’s death was widely reported and talked about the 25-year-old is not the only one. In fact, there are thousands and thousands of Sayantans dying due to lack of treatment after stroke, cardiac arrest or accidents. A social media group “Thousand Sayantans'” has been formed by the youth of the valley to fight for better medical facilities. While there are a lot of hope and assurances, nothing has yet materialised.

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