Burdwan, Oct. 27: A weekend after the death spiral began in the paediatric ward of the Burdwan Medical College and Hospital and after a clean chit from the junior health minister, the government today admitted that there were not enough doctors in the department on account of Lakshmi puja.
Director of medical education Chittaranjan Maity, who went to the hospital today to take stock of the situation, said some of the doctors were absent from the ward on October 20, when seven children died and the toll mounted to 10, despite a specific circular issued by the government.
The hospital authorities had so far denied all charges of medical negligence. The children were admitted to the hospital in critical condition and so the deaths, the principal of the medical college, Bijoy Mukherjee, had said. He also justified the number of deaths as “normal”. Minister of state for health Pratyush Mukherjee had stood by the hospital’s explanation for the incidents.
However, Maity said the government has taken a serious view of the deaths and added that “nobody would be spared” if an on-going probe blames the doctors for negligence.
“We will not try to shield anyone responsible for the deaths. Exemplary punishment will be meted out as was the case during the baby deaths at the B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital in Calcutta. We want to know exactly why the existing infrastructure at the Burdwan Medical College and Hospital was not optimally used,” Maity said.
Officials here confirmed that the seven children died on October 20 virtually unattended by any experienced medical practitioner. Junior doctors available on the day of Lakshmi puja were not equipped to handle as many serious patients at the same time.
Maity admitted that only two doctors were on duty that day.
A government circular had expressly stated that adequate doctors should be available in hospitals during holidays. The circular was sent to all government-run medical institutions well before the pujas.
But the general indifference of doctors towards patients in government hospitals in the state proved beyond repair by public diktat.
More than 20 infants died in two days at B.C. Roy last month and 25 children died in six days here.
The Khosbagan area adjoining the medical college here houses innumerable private clinics where government doctors attend even during their official hours of duty.
“This is absolutely illegal as they are paid a non-practising allowance by the government,” Maity said.
Even the nursing staff available on the last weekend was not adequate. The circular had asked the medical college to “properly maintain duty rosters during the pujas”, Maity said.
“The number of doctors drops alarmingly during holidays or when the out-patient departments of the medical colleges are closed. This may well lead to more tragedies like the one that took place on October 20,” said Maity.
“The attitude of the doctors and nurses toward this noble profession needs to change. They should improve their mentality,” said Maity. The health department will take steps to ensure that government circulars are strictly abided by, he added.
Maity has met the principal and the chief medical officer of health.