West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about her state's preparedness with regards the COVID-19 pandemic during a videoconferencing with the Chief Ministers of all states.
But while Mamata spoke of 16,000 tests being done in a day at 56 laboratories, 81 COVID-19 hospitals and 106 safe homes where people can be quarantined, the reality at the ground level is somewhat different.
Several people in the state have found it difficult to get hospital admission even if they are prepared to pay a huge sum. This coupled with the high cost of treatment at hospitals which many cannot afford and has promoted hospitals to come up with home care packages. Mamata however said treatment for COVID-19 is free."There are 81 COVID-19 hospitals. Medicines are totally free. The government has also taken up some private hospitals," said Mamata Banerjee.
Mamata spoke about tele-medicine facilities to help patients get treated at home and also spoke about centralized call centre services. Again the reality is that people often find it difficult to get through to these numbers and sometimes even after that, there is little help offered. Case in point is that of a 71-year-old man whose body was kept in a freezer for 44 hours by his family members earlier this month in Kolkata's Amherst Street as government authorities were not taking the body away.
Hours before the West Bengal Chief Minister joined the video conference with the Prime Minister, another story had emerged. Madhav Narayan Dutta, a patient with breathing problems and fever had lost his life as no one helped him from the hospital into the ambulance in Bongaon hospital in North 24 Parganas district. His wife was trying desparately to help him into the ambulance even as medical staff wearing PPE kits were seen standing in the background but not coming forward to help.
It was his brother in law who arrived later to help. He arrived at hospital at 5:00 pm on Saturday and was asked to be taken to Kolkata at 8:00 pm,but no one helped the man into the ambulance.
While Mamata mentioned that the state had spent Rs. 2500 crore on COVID-19, the West Bengal Chief Minister also spoke about the damage done by cyclone Amphan on May 20th and requested PM Modi to clear the funds of Rs. 53,000 crore including GST compensation of Rs.4135 crore.
"You had come here after cyclone Amphan and your Central team had visited too after that. They had submitted a report of losses of Rs. 35,000 crore. But we have not received anything apart from the Rs. 1000 crore that you had initially granted," clarified Mamata.
She questioned how the state would deal with any future calamities that might arise if all the money was spent from the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF).