A government hospital nurse in West Bengal yanked off the thumb of an infant while taking off a plaster and tossed the finger in a dustbin to hide the accident late on Sunday, triggering protests by the baby’s family.
The eight-year-old was left struggling for her life after hospital authorities referred her to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) but, after six hours of travelling, the NBMCH administration told the family to go to Kolkata – around 600 km away – for an emergency plastic surgery.
The loss of the thumb was detected around 10.30pm Sunday by Mamoni Mondal, the mother of the baby, who found her child bleeding profusely with the left thumb missing at the hospital in the north Bengal district of Dakshin Dinajpur.
Though no one was ready to accept responsibility for the incident, it was discovered later that a nurse, Rakhi Sarkar, tore the finger off while removing a bandage applied to hold in place a syringe administering intravenous medicine.
"The baby was bleeding profusely but I didn’t found a single doctor in the ward to attend to her. When I started shouting a doctor came to treat her around 11pm," said the child’s father.
This is the latest scandal to hit the beleaguered health sector in West Bengal, which has lurched from one crisis to the other – from infant malnutrition deaths to overflowing beds at top government hospitals in the state.
Opposition parties allege the poor health government services are a result of the shabby handling of the department by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who also holds the health portfolio.
The child was admitted to the neo-natal unit of the hospital on July 10 with severe diarrhoea and an eye problem. She was born at this hospital last week.
As soon the news spread, hundreds of local residents gathered in front of the hospital and started protesting. They had to controlled by a huge police contingent.
The super of the offending hospital, Tapan Biswas, told journalists he would initiate a probe against the concerned employee when the family filed a written complaint.
"Now our first concern is to cure the baby at the earliest. We will bear the entire cost of the treatment. Already the baby has been sent to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital for treatment. We have sent the amputated finger to the NBMCH with the patient's family," he said.
But sources said the NBMCH authorities turned away the family and said plastic surgery was possible on the state capital of Kolkata. The acting super of NBMCH Dr Nirmal Bera chose not to comment.
"We hoped the baby will be cured at the neonatal unit. But we are now apprehensive that she may succumb to the trauma and bleeding. We have come to know the nurse was working on Sunday night after switching off the lights of the ward,” said Tulu Debnath, a relative of the baby.