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When death knocks, show babies the door

Calcutta, Sept. 3: The state’s only paediatric referral hospital, mauled because of the recurrence of multiple deaths in a day, today sought to reverse the situation by desperately trying to scale down the number of patients under its care.

On a day when releases — rather than deaths — were the order of things, the B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children discharged more than 30 children till late this evening. Starting the day with 302 children on the patient-rolls, the hospital had, by the evening, brought down the number to 282. There were 14 new admissions and one death. Thirty-three children were released.

While hospital superintendent Anup Mandal maintained that the number of releases was not “abnormal”, some doctors said they had been “advised” to release “improving patients”.

“Usually, we keep back a child for a day or two as the condition of children is prone to sudden improvement or deterioration,” explained a senior physician. “But, now, we have been asked to keep the number of patients to manageable levels and non-controversial levels at least for the next few days,” she added.

Even some parents of children admitted to the hospital are surprised at the “swift rate” at which some patients are being released. Sumita Mandal, mother of two-and-half-months-old Manisha, had admitted her daughter only yesterday with asthma and infection in the respiratory tract and was told that Manisha would have to be kept for “some more days at least”. She was surprised when doctors told her that she could take her daughter home today.

Ajit Konar’s father, Asit Konar, was another doubting parent. “The doctors could not say why they were releasing him so soon (Ajit was admitted on Sunday),” he said. “They only told me they were acting under orders,” he added.

Hospital superintendent Mandal, however, used the same logic to explain the spate of releases.

“It’s pointless keeping a child back when the demand for space is so acute,” he said. “I can’t take the moral responsibility of letting a fast-improving child occupy a bed when an emergency case is knocking at the doors of the hospital.”

The hospital is also encouraging parents to take their children to other government hospitals that are less crowded. “Many other government hospitals are also providing the kind of treatment that we are, but still children are being brought here since this is the only referral hospital for paediatric cases,” a doctor said.

“Some of the children being brought here are those that have been turned away from hospitals like R.G. Kar Hospital and Medical College,” said Anup Mandal. “But the fact is that they could have been treated there as well. This unnecessarily leads to trauma for the children.”

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