People in Darjeeling hills get their own Covid-19 hospital

A 125-bed hospital inaugurated on June 23 near the confluence of Teesta and Rangit rivers at picturesque Tribeni, a pilgrimage and tourist spot in West Bengal’s Kalimpong district, was upgraded to Level IV Covid hospital on Saturday.

The facility comes as a relief for people of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts who have to travel to Siliguri town in the plains for treatment.

Till now, there was no hospital for Covid-19 patients in the semi-autonomous hill area under the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).

More than 40 people have so far died of Covid-19 in Darjeeling district but most of these deaths were in Siliguri sub-division and Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) area of the district. Till Saturday, there were 1,237 cases in Darjeeling district and 63 in Kalimpong.

The notification to upgrade the hospital with immediate effect was issued by West Bengal’s director of health services on Saturday. It was initially started as a hospital for severe acute respiratory infection (SARI).

Anit Thapa, chairman of board of administrators, GTA said, “From the very beginning we wanted it to be fully functional Covid hospital for hill people. We didn’t get the clearance initially and it started as a SARI hospital in June.”

Once a guesthouse for tourists and later turned into a training hub for Gorkhaland activists, the three-storey building was lying in a shambles for years. It was recently restored. The building was built in the 1990s when Subash Ghisingh was chairman of the erstwhile Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

In Siliguri town, patients have been complaining of shortage of beds at the two designated government hospitals and many people have been sent to safe home facilities set up by the government. All 47 civic wards in SMC area are under complete lockdown till July 23.

Ankam Simlandi, superintendent of the hospital, said, “We already have the required infrastructure, including ventilators. We will add more.”

Prakas Barui, chief medical officer of health, Kalimpong, said, “We hope the hospital will serve people well and handle critical patients.”

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