The Kolkata doctor who finds house visits ‘relaxing’

What if the patient was my father or my mother? I advise accordingly, says Dr. Chel

At a time when seeing your neighbourhood general physician or a specialist in the nearest hospital for a non-COVID-19 ailment is challenging enough, to have a doctor examining you in the comfort of your home is nothing short of a luxury. It’s a luxury that a growing number of families in Kolkata’s Salt Lake City feels entitled to in times of need — all thanks to a medical practitioner who, in fact, finds house visits relaxing.

“Once I examine a patient, the family’s worries are put to rest. What usually follows is a chit-chat, a small adda, which I find very relaxing. It is my way of relaxation in between seeing patients, and I see patients nearly all day,” says Dr. Rajesh Kumar Chel, 46, who is also attached to four large hospitals in the city, including AMRI and ILS.

Dr. Chel is indeed a busy man; in every five minutes one spends with him, he receives almost as many calls, and the callers would invariably be someone waiting for him to show up, either at their homes or in one of the hospitals. He visits 8-10 homes daily — mostly in response to calls from people with elderly parents — apart from spending time in the Out Patient Departments of the four hospitals.

“When someone in distress calls me home, I think differently: ‘What if the patient was my father or my mother?’ I advise accordingly. I take ownership of the situation,” says Dr. Chel, who grew up around the coal mines of Jharkhand — his father worked for Coal India — and relocated to Kolkata in 2003 after earning his MBBS degree. As a young doctor, he was among the doctors deputed to attend to Communist Party of India (Marxist) veteran Jyoti Basu and over the years, the number of families that relied on him during emergencies grew.

“Today, I am known to some 4,000 families in Salt Lake City. I mostly visit known families and through references, and the reason is I work on trust. For example, how am I to know if a family has COVID-19? Recently, I happened to visit a family I was not familiar with. I was told that a member had diarrhoea. It turned out the person had high fever and not diarrhoea — they had concealed it! But such cases are rare,” says Dr. Chel.

Being on call has its downsides; one of them being that there’s hardly a time he can call his own. “Calls come when I am just about to reach home for dinner. Sometimes they come from a house in whose vicinity I had been only an hour ago, so I drive back all the way again. The trouble is compensated for once I see the patient and the chitchat begins. I like the personal touch — I am made that way. I enjoy being the guest who also happens to be a doctor,” says Dr. Chel.

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