The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Health aids down in dumps

The biochemistry and pathology department is bolted with two padlocks, the ECG room with one. The ventilator is also under lock and key, waiting in vain for a technician. The physiotherapy department is opened every day, but it lacks something: a physiotherapist.

At B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children — where 18 babies have died this month — around one-third of the rooms and wards are permanently under lock and key. Most have been turned into dumping grounds for equipment — some over-used, the rest unused.

Take the case of the ventilator, essential in any paediatric healthcare unit. Senior physicians serving the hospital for years and house-physicians who have recently joined the state’s only referral hospital for children agree that this is something they have just heard about. “I have not seen it even once,” some admit. “But I still don’t think the authorities are bluffing when they say the hospital has a ventilator.”

Superintendent Anup Mandal had said on Tuesday that the hospital needed “only a technician” to utilise the ventilator. On Wednesday, however, he refused to say anything about the missing technician. The first-floor room that doctors say houses the ventilator, could soon have a photo-therapy unit with a warmer. The hospital has two, but both were out of order for weeks. One has been revived, officials said. “We are now waiting to see whether this, too, goes the ventilator way,” said a doctor.

The entire Narkeldanga Main Road hospital now resembles a dumping ground. A terrace on the first floor — originally envisaged as a play-area for children but also kept locked — now has dozens of beds and small iron contraptions that were once envisaged as being “supportive in the development of toddlers’ movements”.

The biochemistry and pathology department has been locked for some time, say doctors. “We have repeatedly asked our superintendent to have the room opened but our demands resulted in a notice telling patients not to expect anything from the department.”

But the media glare since Monday has, at last, resulted in something positive, admit doctors. Throughout Wednesday, oxygen cylinders kept pouring into the hospital, the largest batch arriving around 4.30 pm. But the oxygen cylinders, too, were destined for another dump.

So, when five-year-old Shyamali Ghosh was admitted on Wednesday, her family decided not to take a chance and brought an oxygen cylinder along. “They chose not to take any risk,” explained an employee of the Lake Town nursing home that had referred Shyamali to B.C. Roy Hospital, pointing to the cylinders dumped on the ground floor. “They might never reach the second-floor wards in time.”

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