The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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An arm lost to state hospitals

Calcutta, Oct. 16: Four state hospitals could not set her arm right — they even refused to admit her. Till a surgeon at a private nursing home operated on Sumitra Naskar, four days after her arm was crushed in a train accident.

The delay cost Sumitra her right arm. It also ended whatever faith she had in the New Left’s lofty slogans — health for all and a caring administration.

On Mahalaya (October 6), Sumitra — who worked as a housemaid in south Calcutta — had taken the train back home to Beliachandi, a village in Joynagar. As the packed train neared Gocharan station, her right arm and a part of her body dashed against a signal-post.

After a case of “broken hand” — not detached — was registered at the station office, Sumitra was taken to the Baruipur Civil Hospital, the nearest health centre. Her husband, Subol, joined her at the hospital. But as the hospital had little more than painkillers, officials there asked the couple to go to M.R. Bangur Hospital.

At the Tollygunge hospital, she was told to go elsewhere – preferably Chittaranjan Seva Sadan — after some anti-tetanus shots and antibiotics.

When they reached the sadan, they were informed that there was no bed. It was late and the couple went back home.

The next day, neighbours told them things would get better if they had a “poverty certificate” from the local pradhan. The pradhan, P. Ghosh, complied, certifying that the family had a monthly income of Rs 500 and that Sumitra “deserved free treatment”.

Armed with the poverty certificate, the couple again came to Calcutta. This time they went to Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital. The outpatients’ department, after seeing the severity of her injury, immediately recommended admission. But the residential medical officer wrote: “Regret, no vacancy.”

The couple again returned home. This time, local MLA Debaprasad Sarkar guided them to a private nursing home at Kamalgazi.

Sumitra was admitted and operated on October 10, nearly 96 hours after the injury. The surgeon, Harashit Sarkar, refused to take money and, on Tuesday (Dashami), had her shifted to a nursing home near his house where Sumitra would be treated free.

Though neither health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra nor health secretary Asim Barman was available, director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said the government would form a committee to probe the matter if the couple complained.

NRS superintendent Shyamal Rudra said he would look into the case. “There are provisions for the outpatients’ department to admit a patient in a critical condition without bothering to consult the doctors serving indoors,” he said.

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