Five more children died at the BC Roy Memorial Hospital for Children at Beliaghata in Kolkata, taking the toll to 23 since Thursday.
The story of the hospital, the sole referral centre for children in Bengal, is one we have all heard before — that of government hospitals and the sheer mess they find themselves in.
To begin with, the hospital does not have a neo-natal intensive care unit. Which means, no ventilators and incubators — a basic necessity for any children's hospital. In 2004, former cricket captain Sourav Ganguly had auctioned his bats, pads, gloves and caps to raise Rs 75 lakh for a neo-natal unit in the hospital. But the fund is still with the West Bengal Health and Family Welfare Society.
On Saturday evening, when Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee visited the hospital, senior health department officials said that in July this year, they had ordered several equipment worth more than Rs 30 lakh from abroad. What they did not tell him was that that was the last they heard of the ‘equipment’ — it was yet to reach the hospital due to some “administrative reasons”.
The BC Roy Memorial hospital urgently needs two special emergency generators. The officials told Bhattacharjee that the generators would bring on electricity within 15 seconds of a power cut. That would help the ventilators and life-support systems — whenever the hospital gets them — work round the clock.
The officials also told Bhattacharjee that the PWD had completed work on a new building, which would accommodate about 150 beds, including the neo-natal unit. But the PWD’s electrical division was yet to complete its work.
Bhattacharjee directed the health department officials, including the principal secretary, to look into the system of referring patients to the hospital. The chief minister said the hospital was already overburdened and cases, which could be treated in other state-run medical colleges or district hospitals, should not be referred to it. A senior official of the medical education service said three out of the 17 children who died since Thursday were brought to the hospital from a premier medical college in the city.
Trinamool Congress and Youth Congress workers had a scuffle with the police on Sunday when the former tried to force their way into the hospital to protest the deaths. Some of protesters tried to climb the hospital’s main gate. They also burnt an effigy of state health minister Surya Kanta Mishra. A strong police picket was posted at the hospital.