No ‘poriborton’ in health care in Didi’s Bengal (West Bengal Newsletter)

December 25th, 2011 - 3:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, Dec 25 (IANS) Soon after taking over the reins of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee had raised expectations of turning around the state’s moribund healthcare. But seven months down, rats fatally nibble at patients, children die in a heap while drunk doctors are becoming a menace - all in government hospitals.

Days after her much celebrated oath-taking in May, a fleet-footed Chief Minister Banerjee started dropping in unannounced at state-run hospitals - pulling up errant doctors, staff and expressing dismay at the poor infrastructure.

Banerjee, who also holds the health ministry portfolio, assured patients’ relatives of better facilities, overhauled the health department by filling the top posts with her handpicked officers and made promises dime a dozen of a better dawn.

But the fizz went out soon. The surprise visits stopped, doctors and staff went back to their old take-it-easy routine, and the chief minister’s lofty plans have so far translated into precise little on the ground.

The result?

At the state’s premier referral hospital, SSKM, in the metropolis, a 53-year-old pneumonia patient bled to death Friday after rats allegedly nibbled at his body organs, though the hospital is loathe to admit it.

“We saw a pool of blood on the bed. We took off the bedsheet covering him and found the rats had nibbled at his parts. We had seen the rodents a day back,” said a relative of victim Arun Sadhukhan.

But the ordeal was yet not over. “Nurses paid no heed when we asked them to dress up the wounds. Finally we had to shell out Rs.50 to a sweeper who dressed them up. But our patient died late in the afternoon,” said the distraught relative.

The same day, in Bolpur of Birbhum district, a doctor in a sub-divisional hospital was high on alcohol while on duty at the crowded out-patients’ department (OPD).

Too inebriated to examine patients, the medico was incoherent.

Asked why he was reeking of alcohol, the doctor, his feet trembling, said: “How do I know?”

A health department official said a board has been formed to examine the doctor and action would be taken against him once it was established that he had taken alcohol.

A couple of months back, another doctor in the Bagha Jatin Hospital in the city’s southern outskirts was suspended after he was found attending to patients at the OPD in a drunken state.

The sorry state of medical services came out into the open in northern Bengal’s Malda district too, as six crib deaths were reported within a span of 10 hours up to Friday afternoon.

“The children were between four days and 15 days old. They died due to breathing problems as a result of the biting cold in the district,” said Malda Medical College and Hospital acting superintendent R.R. Samanta.

The children’s relatives, however, complained of neglect on the part of the hospital.

Last month, nine babies died within one and a half days at the same hospital. In September, at least a dozen babies died in three days in the hospital.

Earlier this year, West Bengal’s only state-run child referral facility - B.C. Roy Children Hospital - and three district hospitals saw a large number of crib deaths in a short span.

The only saving grace is that cleanliness in government hospitals has improved.

Somewhat rattled by the media outcry, Banerjee Saturday gave a list of the steps taken by her government to improve health care infrastructure.

She said seven new ‘health districts’ would become operational by 2012 while six new neo-natal units have already been set up in various hospitals. “We have also increased 3,500 hospital beds across the state,” she said.

Banerjee also announced that a number of new super specialty hospitals will come up in Bankura, Birbhum, South Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Malda, West Midnapore, East Midnapore, Murshidabad, Purulia and North Dinajpur districts.

(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at s.panth@ians.in)

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