The West Bengal government-run M. R. Bangur Hospital, a COVID-19-designated facility located in south Kolkata, has earmarked beds for COVID-19 patients belonging to the transgender community.
On Monday evening, the hospital admitted its first coronavirus patient — a transgender woman — who worked in a diagnostic laboratory and possibly picked up the infection while collecting blood samples.
“This is the first hospital in the entire country to earmark beds for [COVID-19] patients from the transgender community. Two beds each have been earmarked for transgender women and men in the female and male wards respectively,” West Bengal’s Minister of State for Health Chandrima Bhattacharya told The Hindu.
“The credit goes entirely to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,” said Ms. Bhattacharya, “We had merely placed the proposal before her. She is the one who issued the directive.” The Chief Minister holds the Health portfolio as well.
Even though Ms. Bhattacharya — quite expectedly — gave the credit to the Chief Minister, organisations that work for the transgender community insisted that the junior Minister herself was instrumental in ensuring that the hospital admitted COVID-19 patients from the community.
“Despite all the court verdicts and the laws, very little has been done for the community at the ground level. Even Mamata Banerjee’s government had done nothing for us all these years, but this decision is a milestone and will go a long way in helping people like us,” said Ranjita Sinha, who runs the Association of Transgender/Hijra in Bengal and who — since she enjoys a good rapport with Ms. Bhattacharya — was instrumental in pushing the proposal.
“We hope that facility gets extended to other cities in West Bengal and to other States as well,” said Ms. Sinha, who is also a member of the West Bengal Transgender Development Board and is on the National Task Force for the community.
Bappaditya Mukherjee, founder-director of the NGO Prantakatha, who was among the first to discuss the vulnerability of the transgender community with Ms. Sinha when the pandemic began spreading in Kolkata in March, said: “As it is transgender people are marginalised. They avoid mainstream hospitals because of harassment and prejudices. So if they test positive for COVID-19, where do they go? That was a big worry for us. We are happy that a beginning has been made — what we need now is awareness, so that people from the community know where to go in case they feel unwell.”
The transgender woman presently admitted in M.R. Bangur Hospital lives in Prantakatha premises in south Kolkata, since no landlord was willing to rent her accommodation. “She called me from the hospital last evening. She is being taken good care of. She said she was given food and medicines. What more does one need — just some dignity,” said Mr. Mukherjee.