Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
The rowdy medical students of SCB Medical College, who were on strike since arrest of one of them for having instigated and led a gang of fellow students to torture two of the Cuttack based journalists in wrongful confinement in their hostel, have withdrawn their strike after the SCBMC superintendent put a ban on normal entry of journalists into its campus for news purpose.
In an office-order issued on June 28, the Superintendent has directed that “no doctor or official is authorized to give any bite or news both to electronic & print media”, while prohibiting media representatives from entering into various parts of the institute without his prior permission.
The arrested medico, engaged in medicine ward, was instigating a patient to shift to nephrology ward, even though he was never a nephrology case. His pathological tests that the medicine ward had routinely conducted had shown that his urea creatinine level was normal and he had no problem with the kidneys. But the medico was insisting that he should be shifted to nephrology ward where his kidneys could be tested. The daughter of the old man was not agreeing with the medico to shift her father to the nephrology wing as she was smelling a rat; because, her father was not diagnosed on the basis of investigations to be a case for nephrology and because the medico was insisting upon shifting her father to nephrology ward behind the back of the treating professor and unit head of medicine, and further because, kidney is an organ that gets stolen by the needing rich through the doctors in treating hospitals. The medico was seen intimidating her. The journalist in question being the son of the patient on coming to know of the matter apprised the professor and unit head of this, who instantly rushed to the spot, asked the indoor patients of the ward about the happening and allegation well corroborated by fellow patients, shifted the concerned medico to another duty room immediately. This irritated the medico. So, as the journalist was sure to come to see his ailing father again, the concerned medico kept a gang of medicos organized to teach the journalist a lesion. When the next day the journalist came, another fellow journalist had accompanied him to have a in-depth investigation into the motive of the medico behind insistence to shift the patient from general medicine to nephrology ward behind back of the professor and unit head. The lurking medicos jumped over them and whisked away them into a wrongful confinement in a hostel and inhumanly tortured them for hours. Sadly, the police IIC having arrived in the campus on a SoS message from the tortured journalist, remained a passive onlooker and later, while dillydallying to act on the journalists’ FIR, was seen entertaining the accused medicos in his chamber and accommodating their counter FIR. As the IIC paid a deaf ear to the grievances of the two media men, the scribes and photo-journalists of Cuttack led a protest rally to police headquarters and sumbitted a memorandum seeking stern action against the miscreant medicos as well as against the IIC, Mangalabag for siding with the miscreants. They were assured of appropriate action against the miscreant medicos and the IIC for dereliction in duty.
Against this backdrop, the SCBMC superintendent has issued the mischievous order.
The order is very shrewdly worded which de jure does not appear like a ban order, but imposes a de facto ban. It says, “media representatives both electronic and print shall be allowed to enter into the O.P.D./Casualty/Wards etc only after obtaining permission from the superintendent”. To some, the expression shall be allowed to enter with permission is not the same as shall not be allowed without permission. So, to them, the order in question has a positive line. But in reality, it is a mischief against freedom of press designed to keep unethical and illegal medical practice going on unabated in the college hospital hidden from public knowledge.
That, the averment that “media representatives ……. shall be allowed to enter into the O.P.D./Casualty/Wards etc only after obtaining permission from the superintendent” is a ploy to escape criticism for stymieing free press, is established by the Sambad in its report of July 01 as it has exposed how the so-called permission to its man was granted long 7 hours after formal request on June 30.
So the views that making superintendent’s permission a prerequisite for media persons to enter into the SCBMC campus is not obstructive to freedom of press is not acceptable.
On the other hand, in a signed editorial on June 30, captioned “Dhik Tama Hitlery Shasan” (Fie your Hitlerian rule), editor of the Samaja Sri Gopal Mohapatra has shown how SCBMC has become a den of vices and deliberate negligence to poor patients; and how its maladies have attracted governmental intervention after being exposed in media leading to correction of its wrongs, which without exposure in the Press could have continued to affect the patients under habitual nonchalance of the authorities or under pretense of professional aloofness of the doctors.
In this splendid editorial seldom seen in mainstream media in Orissa, Sri Mohapatra has rightly termed the ban as a crude attempt to keep medical maladies under cover for ever.
How media has made the medical authorities wake up to needs of treatment and nursing is discernible in hundreds of published reports. As for example, in August 2011, when hundreds of Dengue patients were perishing in SCBMC without care on its corridors, the authorities had to confess their lapses and organize beds and nursing materials that had saved hundreds of lives after being exposed in the media.
“There was some problem regarding infrastructure, but everything has been sorted out now. We have taken measures to open the special dengue ward. Arrangements have been made for an adequate number of mosquito nets and beds for the patients and even doctors have been assigned for the ward, It will start functioning from Friday” the superintendent had stated (Times of India, August 19, 2011).
Had the press not exposed the malady, no correctional steps could have commenced and hundreds of people could have died of dengue.
And, this malady could not have been spotted and focussed had the journalists been denied free access to the SCBMC campus.
Exposure of their misdeeds by media has always been irritant to the black sheep in SCBMC. The present restriction on entry of journalists to its campus is propelled by irritation over exposure of medical misdeeds.
The affected journalists, whose professional entitlement to have access to source of information is so very severely infringed upon by the SCBMC superintendent, could have entered into the campus en mass in protest against the wrongful order; but instead of that, they have rightly met the central RDC in a huge delegation on July 01 seeking his administrative intervention.
We earnestly hope, the RDC will appreciate this good gesture of journalists and use his position to ensure that the rowdy medicos are disciplined and the premier medical college is made available to media’s free access in order not to remain a den of vices that a few miscreants amongst medical community have turned it to at the moment.
At the same time Cuttack journalists’ allegation that Mangalabag IIC is protecting the miscreant medicos needs be investigated into and action be taken against him sans any delay if he is found prima facie guilty of the mischief.
This is essential, because the SCB Medicall College must no more be allowed to remain a den of vices.