Calcutta, Sept. 8: Administrative lapses and negligence were mostly responsible for the string of deaths at the state-run B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children last week, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has formally told his party.
Bhattacharjee’s view on what is perceived by many as the New Left’s first encounter with popular ire was placed before the CPM’s state committee on Saturday evening, party officials said.
The chief minister’s presentation, representing the government position on the criticism levelled by an influential section of the party, also evoked questions from a few veterans. They wanted to know why the views expressed in public by Bhattacharjee and his health minister, Surjya Kanta Mishra, on the issue differed in places.
Bhattacharjee dwelt at length on the incident, reaffirmed his position that the deaths were “appalling” and informed the party leadership that he reached the conclusion about the lapses only after talking to many of the affected families and hospital doctors and staff.
“Several parents (of sick children) complained to me about the lack of care when I visited the hospital,” Bhattacharjee said.
At the two-day committee meeting that concluded today, Bhattacharjee is believed to have said that he had asked for a formal report from health department officials on whether the children could have been saved by the doctors and nursing staff of the hospital. “I wanted to know from the health department why these children had to die. Was there any lapse on our part in offering the right treatment'” a party leader quoted Bhattacharjee as asking.
Bhattacharjee also said he had heard from a few dozen mothers of children undergoing treatment in the hospital that some doctors and nurses did not attend to patients regularly. “We cannot tolerate this kind of attitude in our hospitals,” Bhattacharjee said. Mishra was present when Bhattacharjee was placing his views before the committee.
When a few senior members pressed for an explanation on the differing views that “caused confusion”, party secretary Anil Biswas blunted the questions by saying both views were authentic, rooted as they were in “facts, figures and realities. There is no difference between the two, there is no confusion in public mind and there is no need to quibble”.
The positions taken by Bhattacharjee and Biswas, and a marked deceleration in the intra-party critiism of Mishra’s initial handling of the incident signal a new phase of the damage-control drive.
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