The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hookey-players cripple hospital

It hardly takes 48 hours for the cosmetic changes to crumble and the warts to start showing again at B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children. The hospital, where the baby-death horror story had unfolded in September, wore a hastily-draped veil on Saturday to welcome Union health minister Shatrughan Sinha. By Monday, that spit ’n’ polish veil had slipped and the spotlight was back on the squalor.

The only referral children’s hospital in the state is now crippled by a sizeable number of General Duty Attendants (GDA) going on mass casual leave to participate in Chhat puja celebrations back home.

“Things really took a turn for the worse on Monday, with nearly 15 of the 32 GDA staff, including sweepers, not reporting for duty, without notice. Children and their parents had to suffer unclean, stinking wards,” a health department official at Writers’ Buildings admitted on Wednesday. The ‘leave’ brigade has, reportedly, started trickling back, but many are yet to turn up.

Some parents waiting outside the hospital said many of the children, unable to bear the stench, had refused to touch the food given to them on Monday. “It was a real ordeal,” said an elderly woman from Barrackpore.

Taking “serious note” of the matter, senior health department officials confirmed that all those found absent on Monday would be charge-sheeted. “We have slapped showcause notices on the staff members who went on mass casual leave on Monday,” said director of medical education (DME) Chittaranjan Maity, who visited the hospital on Wednesday on chief secretary Sourin Roy’s insistence. “We have to tackle the lapses firmly to teach the recalcitrant staff a lesson. After the September deaths, our aim is to convert the hospital into a model one.”

According to Writers’ sources, the issue snowballed on Tuesday after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee came to know about Monday’s ‘mass leave’ at B.C. Roy and asked his chief secretary to probe the matter. The chief secretary summoned special secretary of the health department Soumen Banerjee and directed him to brief him on the latest situation at the child hospital.

B.C. Roy principal Meena Basak confirmed Maity’s visit but refused to elaborate on Monday’s mess. “We are not authorised to divulge any information about the state of affairs in the hospital,” she said. A senior hospital staff, however, said the condition of the hospital had “hardly improved” since September. “We still have only one ECG machine for over 200 patients and the number of nurses and doctors has also not increased.”

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