Patients suffer as protest intensifies in West Bengal
A three-day-old baby boy with foetal distress died at a government hospital in West Bengal on Thursday after remaining untreated since his birth, the death encapsulating the sufferings of hundreds of people since Tuesday when junior doctors across government hospitals struck work to protest an assault on colleagues.
Soon after the baby’s birth on Tuesday, doctors at the College of Medicine and Sagore Dutta Hospital in North 24-Parganas district had told his parents that he needed paediatric ventilation.
Since the hospital did not have facilities for this, the family was asked to transfer him to a hospital in Kolkata.
However, the parents were not able to step into Kolkata’s government hospitals. Weeping with his newborn’s body in his lap, Abhijit Mallick said, “The note that Sagore Dutta’s Hospital doctors left with us said that the baby was in critical condition.
“But the police did not let us enter NRS Medical College and Hospital, RG Kar Medical College and Hospital and the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. We approached two private hospitals but they did not have ventilation facility for babies.”
Mallick said a junior doctor of Sagore Dutta Hospital telephoned the state health secretariat four times to try and arrange help for the baby but failed. “The doctor himself broke down,” he said. His wife Jhumpa, who has been unwell since the delivery, is mentally broken.
“The baby was detected with ‘foetal distress’ (birth asphyxia). We kept him at the sick newborn care unit (SNCU) and tried the best that was possible for us,” hospital superintendent Palas Das told the media.
The junior doctors’ strike that got support from most senior doctors severely hit the functioning of outpatient departments (OPD) at government hospitals.
The crisis spread to indoor wards and emergency departments too. Radiology and pathology departments were also affected.
“If junior doctors, who form the bulk of medics in any hospital, stay away from work, it’s natural that seniors cannot fill the gap. And since many senior doctors expressed their intention to resign, one can imagine the situation,” said a senior doctor at Howrah district hospital, not wishing to be named.
Several tragic scenes were seen at state-run hospitals.
At Kolkata’s SSKM hospital, the largest referral hospital in the state, Sandhya Mondal was seen crying incessantly. Her daughter Pratima suffered an epileptic fit on Sunday and was transferred from a government hospital in East Midnapore district on Monday. She died on Thursday.
“She received the last treatment on Monday. Since Tuesday, she received no treatment,” said Mondal.
At Midnapore Medical College and Hospital, the family members of 17-year old Sheikh Samim, who was admitted to the hospital after suffering head injuries, alleged that he died untreated.
Tension prevailed also in North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri that caters to around 4,000 outdoor patients every day.
On Friday, several hundred family members of patients protested at the hospital, demanding immediate reopening of OPDs.
“My daughter suffers from neurological problems. We spent the nights of Wednesday and Thursday on the hospital campus, hoping that OPDs would resume functioning,” said Khagesh Barman, who came from Chengrabanda near the Bangladesh border.
Rabiul Islam, a resident of Sujapur in Malda, said his sister-in-law, who is suffering from throat cancer, could not be treated in Malda Medical College and Hospital as they found the OPD closed after travelling more than 30 km in the heat.
From Siliguri to Kolkata, the scene was the same — hundreds of patients and their family members waiting at hospitals, sometimes even outside the hospital gates.
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