Many labourers on Monday launched an agitation urging the Centre to take over Employee State Insurance (ESI) Hospital, which is plagued with problems of staff shortage.

Labourers led by Akhila Bharata Karmika Sangh President Sudatta Jain have launched fast-unto-death demanding taking over of the hospital, to make way for better facilities. “There is no better time than the present when we have Congress government both at the Centre and the State,” he said.

The ESI Hospital needs to be brought under the Centre’s Employees State Insurance Corporation. “You can see changes that have come in Rajajinagar (in Bangalore) after the Corporation took over the hospital. We want similar changes here,” Mr. Jain said.

He said his fast-unto-death agitation will not stop till this demand was met.

The agitators said the hospital, set up in 1979 in Kadri Shivabagh, does not have sufficient doctors. As against 14 posts of medical officers, only five doctors are employed.

The hospital lacks necessary infrastructure for specialists to treat patients. “A dentist does not have basic facility to look at the patient. How can you expect him to treat?” Mr. Jain said. Labourers have a hard time in moving from the ESI Hospital to empanelled private hospitals where patients are being referred.

Mr. Jain said not all labourers in the district were covered under ESI. Labourers working in crushing units in Padukonaje, in some hotels in Moodibdri, security guards and those in hazardous units were not covered under the scheme. He also wanted ESI benefits to be extended to Beedi workers till an exclusive hospital was made for them.

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