The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Crumbling hospital crushes patient to death

Calcutta, Dec. 19: A chunk of plaster fell on Menoka Das at SSKM Hospital yesterday. She died within 24 hours.

“The health minister (Surjya Kanta Mishra) has no moral authority to continue in the chair and should resign forthwith.”

This demand came from an Opposition leader, Trinamul’s Madan Mitra, known for disruptive acts, on certain occasions, in the hospital. But this time his voice could find an echo outside political confines.

Wednesday was the second time the 50-year-old woman entered the SSKM Hospital compound — 21 days after she first went there with complaints of breathlessness — for a check-up.

Das was waiting under the wing of the six-storeyed Ronald Ross building, housing the biochemistry department, as her sons Shyamal and Naba went inside to enquire when they should report for the tests.

Some time later, they heard a thud and rushed out with several others to find their mother lying in front of the building, felled by a chunk that had come off a portion between the fourth and fifth floors. She was still clutching the prescription that had been given by the cardiology department.

The mother and sons had started from their Shibpur, Howrah, home at 7.30 in the morning and around noon they were advised to go to the biochemistry department to make an appointment for blood tests.

The sons showed the list of medicines on the prescription given to her to say their mother was nowhere near dying when they brought her. “The hospital snatched her away from us,” they said.

It was not an allegation the hospital was denying. “The fault lies solely with the hospital and that’s why we have paid for her treatment and have decided to pay for the medicines her sons bought,” superintendent Debdwaipayan Chattopadhyay said.

Shamefaced hospital officials recommended that the state health department “somehow” try to compensate her family for its loss.

Her medical records leave little doubt about the cause of death. After a preliminary examination the first time, she was asked to report three weeks later for a check-up.

After the accident, Das was rushed for a brain scan. A surgery followed yesterday evening but, a little after 7 this morning, she was dead.

No one has come forward to own responsibility.

Mishra was not available for comment as he was travelling outside the state. Amar Choudhury, his counterpart in the public works department, which looks after the hospital buildings, described the incident as a “mere accident”.

He said he had already conducted an inquiry and found no one responsible.

The PWD man on the spot is assistant engineer Salil Mukherjee. When The Telegraph correspondent visited his office on the hospital premises, he was not present. Nor were any of the two sub-assistant engineers employed specifically to look after the 14 buildings in the hospital.

Ronald Ross building is under the charge of sub-assistant engineer Kaushik Ghosh and it appears his requests for funds to carry out repairs have been turned down more than once. At the top, the officials responsible for clearing funds are Dilip Chakraborty, superintending engineer, and Dipak Kundu, executive engineer, of the PWD.

At Writers’ Buildings, health and PWD officials held a meeting, where it was decided to start repairs of all SSKM buildings immediately. Health secretary Asim Burman informed the SSKM superintendent later that funds to carry out the repairs would now be cleared.

After the death of Menoka Das.

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