Under normal circumstances, a seven-year-old vomiting blood and running a high temperature would not have any difficulty in finding admission to a paediatric hospital. But not so at B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children, the state’s only “referral paediatric hospital”. That’s what Nandita De and her parents discovered over the weekend.
Nandita, who spent a week at B.C. Roy Hospital recently, was released in “fine condition”, but without her ailment being diagnosed. She was told to “come back after a week” with reports of diagnostic tests the hospital could not conduct. This despite her critical condition.
Doctors at the hospital have said over the past few days that they are being asked to admit “only emergency cases” and turn back those, they feel, “can survive”, in order to bring down the number of patients to “manageable levels”.
It was the turn of Prasanta and Namita De (Nandita’s parents) on Saturday to know what it was like to be sent back with a daughter who was too weak to walk after throwing up blood. As Prasanta struggled to carry Nandita out of the hospital, he admitted that he and his wife now realised what it felt like to come to a hospital where 14 babies died on the first two days of September.
They were afraid that their daughter might not make it through the seven days. “Their (children’s) condition deteriorates very rapidly,” Namita blurted out, saying what her daughter’s physicians should have.
Namita and Prasanta were also “upset” about another thing: the excuses the doctors and nurses “invented” to turn little Nandita out. “It came to a point when a nurse said the doctor, who had treated Nandita earlier, would not see her without our buying a new ticket after the issue of tickets had been stopped,” Prasanta recounted.
Prasanta and Namita caught the next bus to Howrah, from where they would take a train to Begumpur; if they reached Begumpur railway station after sunset, they would have to take a rickshaw — and that “cost money” — to reach home with their daughter, they explained.
On Monday, they would go to Serampore to conduct the tests the doctors at B.C. Roy Hospital had ordered. Doctors had told them that the hospital was not equipped to diagnose what had happened to their daughter. Begumpur did not have the knowhow to conduct the tests but, “fortunately”, they said, Serampore did.
Nandita’s tryst with the only referral hospital for those in her age-group in the state began on August 24, her parents said, showing the treatment chart (no. 0571898). Then, doctors had felt that her condition was not very stable and she needed admission (in ward no. 8). The complaint and the diagnosis read: “whole lower abdomen tender on percussion”.
Nandita responded to treatment after six days and was discharged on the seventh (August 30), but doctors could not say what exactly she was suffering from. Before that, however, she had undergone a whole gamut of tests (ultrasonography, X-ray, blood tests), but none of them was conducted at B.C. Roy Hospital.
She returned home and did not complain of anything for five days. On September 5, however, she again threw up blood. Immediately after that, she came down with high fever and her parents contacted a local general physician. Again, more tests were conducted at Serampore, before Nandita was brought back to B.C. Roy; They had, after all, grown wiser to the ways of B.C. Roy Hospital.
Now, however, they narrate a tale of apathy. To begin with, the doctor who saw Nandita on the earlier occasion did not see her; two other “junior doctors” saw her. When they told the worried parents that Nandita would not be admitted, but would have to come back with the reports of a few more tests next Friday, Namita and Prasanta “somehow” managed to push their way past the barrier to reach “Dr D. Biswas”.
But they had not bargained for the final hurdle — a nurse. After hearing out what Nandita was going through, she said the doctor would not see her today as a new ticket had not been bought. When they said the rules stated that patients who had been undergoing treatment there did not need to have new tickets, they were told not to waste the hospital’s time.
Wasting time was the last thing they could afford. Prasanta and Namita were hurrying back to Begumpur, they said, though they knew the tests would not be conducted till Monday. And Nandita, armed with their reports, would be able to come to B.C. Roy Hospital next Friday, buy a fresh ticket and hope to be treated.