The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Withdrawal symptoms grip doctors
- Patient politics
Dr S.K. Todi. Picture by Pabitra Das

For the doctors and healthcare workers who treated Asitabha Purakayastha for his cardiac condition — not knowing that he was already an SARS carrier — the nightmare has just begun.

While all the action on Monday was at the AMRI Apollo Hospitals in Dhakuria, housing Purakayastha under the care of and Dr Subhashish Ghosh, north Calcutta’s Sunflower Nursing Home remained vexed by the virus, but alone and almost forgotten.

Doctors Sukanta Mandal (Purakayastha’s family physician), Kaushik Mitra, Debasis Chatterjees and the others came to know that the city’s first identified SARS carrier had been to China only after they came in “close and direct” contact with him. Those who attended to Purakayastha have now all but quarantined themselves.

When Purakayastha was admitted to the nursing home near Shyambazar on April 20 with a “serious cardiac condition”, Mandal was one of the first to tend to him. “We never knew then that the man was a SARS suspect,” he told Metro on Monday. “It was only an hour after he had been admitted that we came to know, from his family members, that he had been to SARS-affected areas in China.”

As news that samples of the patient’s blood sent to Pune’s Institute of Virology had tested positive for SARS hit the city on Sunday, Sunflower Nursing Home went into shock. “I immediately stopped seeing patients,” said Mandal.

Debasis Chatterjee was another physician who had treated Purakayastha on April 20-21. He recounted going to Beleghata’s ID Hospital to try and convince doctors there that Purakayastha was a SARS suspect. “No one there seemed really bothered and I left the hospital frustrated,” lamented Chatterjee.

Another residential medical officer (Kaushik Mitra) has stopped seeing patients, both at Sunflower Nursing Home and outside, nursing home officials said. “We are in a state of shock,” one of them admitted.

What has, however, hit the nursing home hardest is the attitude of the state health department. “We were instrumental in leading the government to its first confirmed SARS case. But we have received no protection or guidance in the past 48 hours,” doctors said.

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