TB clinic turns home for criminals and snakes

Siliguri, April 14: A centre to treat tuberculosis patients from 9 am to 2 pm, a den for drug addicts and criminals after that.

Stifled by three acres of wilderness and parthenium bushes, the rundown single-storied structure of the chest clinic of Siliguri subdivisional hospital on Sevoke Road today looks more like a haunted house than a medical institution.

Of course, night is the time when most of the activity takes place at the area better known as the TB hospital compound. Heaps of syringes and empty bottles of narcotics and sedatives, left behind by addicts, bear testimony to their their nocturnal trysts.

Established in 1962 far away from the town — now very much inside it — under the National Tuberculosis Control Programme, the clinic has only an out-patient department. After the last person of the clinic leaves, anti-socials take over, making the most of the absence of night-guards to man the premises.

Though the neglect is apparent, health workers don’t want to go on record when they speak of the state of affairs there.

“Break-ins and thefts, which could be anything from an X-ray plate to medicine, are common. Only last week intruders tampered with the newly-installed water pump (maybe they were trying to steal it, but could not) and no water could be lifted to the overhead tank,” sources said.

A complaint was lodged with the Bhaktinagar police station last week.

With the launch of the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme in the district last December, the centre has assumed importance and has been housed with some of the latest equipment, like high-powered microscopes and costly medicines.

“We need a watchman. We are expecting a computer and a telephone, but are scared to install them with such little security,” clinic sources said.

“We clear the vegetation from the front, but the whole area is unmanageable. We have written to the authorities to construct a boundary wall but nothing has been done,” they added.

Snakes too share the compound with the criminals and often “drop in” through the gaping holes on the walls of the building which allegedly have seen no renovation since inception.

“The medical officer of the clinic has written to us and we are working out modalities of having a night-guard at the clinic. Since creating a separate post involves many procedures it is taking some time,” said Tapan Saha, the hospital superintendent.

“The department does not have the funds to construct a boundary wall, but we are trying our best,” he added.

The story was first published on The Telegraph on the April 15, 2004 issue. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1040415/asp/siliguri/story_3126739.asp

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