Doctors’ forum helps stem the spread of COVID-19 in Bengal

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the emergence of the three-year-old West Bengal Doctors’ Forum (WBDF) as an influential body that has helped prevent the situation in the State going from bad to worse by regularly engaging with the government and the public.

West Bengal is known for its festivals and the scale of their celebrations, but considering that the number of COVID-19 cases did not witness a post-festival surge, unlike in many other States, a significant amount of credit for that goes to WBDF.

“We have transformed from a social media-based doctors’ group to a drawing-room presence in West Bengal. This is indeed an achievement,” Dr. Arjun Dasgupta, a reputed ENT surgeon and a founding member of WBDF, told The Hindu.

“For example, Durga Puja is a cornerstone of Bengali life. This year we advised people to stay home and they did. Without people using their common sense, which eventually prevailed, no court or police can enforce restrictions. Thus we did not see a post-Ganesh Chaturthi-like spike in Maharashtra or a post-Rath Yatra-like spike in Odisha,” said Dr. Dasgupta, adding, “We are now a part of everyday life in Bengal. The COVID-19 situation is still worrying, but you can say we prevented the situation from worsening.”

The WBDF had questioned the State Government’s initial handling of the pandemic when several COVID-19 deaths were supposedly being attributed to co-morbidities, but it later went on to partner with the administration in checking its spread. The feedback given by its members, who routinely visited hospitals and facilities, helped the State government refine its strategy against COVID-19. Subsequently, the group, engaging with the public, asked them repeatedly to exercise caution, particularly during festivals.

The WBDF was formed in 2017 to fight the West Bengal Clinical Establishments Act that had come into effect earlier that year.

The Act prohibited private practitioners from carrying out even the simplest of procedures — such as conducting ECG or administering a vaccine or stitching up a wound — unless their clinic was registered under the Act.

Since getting registered and meeting the requirements prescribed under the Act was a cumbersome and expensive process, most clinics had been reduced to consultation chambers.

The WBDF had challenged the Act in court, and while the hearing is still on, the State government, on October 1, scrapped the clause that barred private clinics from carrying out primary resuscitation and life-saving procedures, as well as basic procedures such as stitching of superficial injuries, removal of stitches, incision and drainage of superficial abscess, conducting of ECG, and catheterisation for urinary retention.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 7:02:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/doctors-forum-helps-stem-the-spread-of-covid-19-in-bengal/article33294087.ece

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