Day VI at B. C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children. Death: one. Babies admitted: 18, a number so low it “surprised” even assistant director of health services D.K. Chakraborty, one of the two new administrators appointed above hospital superintendent Anup Mandal, along with Satyabrata Bute.
Chakraborty and Bute had been asked by Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday to monitor activities at the state’s sole referral hospital for children.
“The number of admissions began to drop ever since word of the deaths spread, but Friday was an all-time low. Admissions have dipped by more than 50 per cent, thanks to the media,” said Chakraborty. “On Friday, we closed our outdoor department an hour earlier, at 3 pm, as there were hardly any patients.”
For the second successive day, the police cordoned off the hospital and slammed the doors on outsiders, especially the media.
At Writers’ Buildings, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee refused to comment on the terms of reference of the three-member inquiry committee, comprising senior health officials Manohar Pal, Aniruddha Kar and Madhabi Das.
Sources said the probe team would meet parents of the 14 babies who died in the first two days of September, in a bid to ascertain whether the deaths could have been prevented.
“The committee members are working very hard on the report and I am waiting for it. When I went to the hospital on Wednesday evening, I spoke to at least 50 families and told the inquiry committee about what I found out,” said Bhattacharjee.
Health secretary Asim Barman said while the government’s contention was that the “system was in place” at the hospital, “it is important to know whether the system was functioning properly and efficiently”.
Director of medical education C.R. Maity added: “We are convinced that the condition of all the children who died at B.C. Roy Hospital was critical, but the question to be asked is whether they received proper medical attention and care.”
The government has set up another committee, comprising six members, headed by the newly-appointed principal of the teaching hospital, Meena Basak.
“We have asked the committee to expedite the shift of the surgical ward from the children’s hospital to the B.C. Roy Polio Clinic for Crippled Children nearby,” said Barman.
Calcutta High Court, meanwhile, has admitted a public interest litigation filed by advocate Subroto Mukherjee, demanding an inquiry into the baby deaths.
Chief Justice A. K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas asked the petitioner to serve notices to the respondents and fixed the hearing for next week.