The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Better childless than in BC Roy

For one, it is an effective birth-control advertisement. For another, it is a place where over-worked nurses refuse to give children oxygen.

Metro asked some victims of the second phase of multiple-baby deaths (eight on September 17) at B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children what the problem was with the “best” state-run paediatric hospital. The bereaved parents’ response showed that the government had learnt few lessons from the 14 deaths on September 1 and 2. Neither a probe nor chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s shut-the-media-out sermon has succeeded in making B.C. Roy Hospital a better place.

Dipak and Bhagabati Das took their 14-month-old daughter Shrabani to the hospital on September 16. About 10 hours later, they were taking away her lifeless body. The cause of death, according to Shrabani’s parents: the over-worked nurses’ failure to continue oxygen-supply to the girl, who was gasping for breath. Shrabani was admitted around 9 pm on September 16 after five doctors (living near the Das’ Kamalapur home) failed to cure her of what, apparently, was a bout of cold. At around 3 am, she had some milk and biscuits.

Around 4.30 am, however, the cylinder she was drawing oxygen from ran empty and Bhagabati turned desperately to a nurse. “Ekhon hobey na, amar ki onyo kaj nei (Don’t you think I have anything else to do)'” was the reply she got, says Bhagabati. “There were only two nurses for the 50-odd babies and they were really having a tough time,” she adds. Shrabani continued to struggle for oxygen for more than two hours. She lost the battle around 7 am.

The same day, Asim and Rita Mitra’s three-week-old daughter died at B.C. Roy Hospital. When she came to the hospital within three days of being born, she did not have a name. She died nameless. Admitted on August 29 with septicaemia (doctors felt the girl contracted the infection at Dum Dum Municipality Hospital, where she was born) she survived till September 17. Her parents saw the government’s reaction to the first-phase of deaths at the hospital from close quarters.

“Nothing happened on September 1 or 2,” Asim recalls. Things started changing after the chief minister’s visit. “Toilets were cleaned, the strength of nurses was increased and the visibility of doctors, too, improved.” But soon, everything was back to ‘normal’. The nurses continued to be as abrasive as ever, wards and toilets got back their dirty look and even the most common medicine had to be bought from outside.

“B.C. Roy Hospital is the best advertisement for birth-control,” adds Asim, for a visit to the state’s only paediatric referral hospital “would convince anyone not to have children”.

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