As the toll in cases related to encephalitis in north Bengal rose to 111 with three more deaths reported Friday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee suspended three senior health officials citing “dereliction of duty” on their part.
She said the government was kept in dark about the actual situation in north Bengal, which is why there has been a delay in measures to control the disease.“The health department did not inform us in advance. We have acted fast after we received reports of deaths due to encephalitis. We are doing our best despite shortage of staff. We have suspended district health officials. The state government has cancelled the leaves of all health officials working in the region,” the Chief Minister said.
Those suspended Friday are Chief Medical Officers of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts and the superintendent of North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH).
Mamata has further directed Minister of State for Health Chandrima Bhattacharya to visit hospitals in north Bengal and assess the situation. She has also ordered Director of Medical Education Sushanta Ranjan Banerjee to camp in north Bengal for the next 72 hours.
The Chief Minister, who also holds health portfolio, said she will leave for north Bengal today along with the director of medical education. Mamata also announced immediate drive to monitor unhygienic pig farms responsible for breeding mosquitoes that cause the disease.
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Sources in the health department said investigation to determine encephalitis infection could not be conducted earlier at NBMCH — a revelation that made Mamata angry.
Director, State Health Services, Dr B Satpathy said, “We are procuring kits for conducting tests for Japanese Encephalitis from Pune. In the last 24 hours, we have lost three patients while two deaths were reported from NBMCH and one death has been reported from Coochbehar.”
Government procures Japanese Encephalitis kits from National Institute of Virology in Pune. One test kit costs Rs 15,000 from which 96 samples can be tested. The test is expensive, however, at present, the NBMCH is conducting tests free, said a health official.