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Fewer admissions, fewer baby deaths

Less and less children have been finding a place at their only referral hospital in the state as the B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children approaches an anniversary it appears keen to forget.

After waiting for a year, in vain, for the do-it-now government to make good at least one of the many promises it made — increasing the number of beds — the hospital has discovered the virtues of a simple equation: the lower the number of admissions, the lower the number of deaths.

This principle, say hospital officials, is working wonders. The August-September season usually sees a surge in the average number of deaths, due to the rains and various diseases. This year, the average has been kept down to “around three” a day. There were days, they say, when the death count was as low as two (August 24).

Officials admit they had hoped for “something at least” when chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Union health minister Shatrughan Sinha, jolted by the unusually high number of deaths on at least three days in 2002 (August 31, September 1 and September 17), visited the hospital in quick succession.

Many promises were made but the one that looked closest to being fulfilled was the promise to increase the number of beds. A year later, the hospital — the only one in the state that acts as the “referral point” for children with diseases — makes do with the same number of wards. There are the same two wards for babies (wards 7 and 10), the three “major” (general diseases) wards (6, 8 and 13), two special wards (12 and 14) and one ward each for diarrhoea patients (no. 9) and paying beds (no. 11). The number of beds in 2002 and 2003 is exactly the same: 175.

So, keeping the number of admissions down is the only way things can be managed. “There are strict instructions from Writers’ Buildings to limit the number of entries,” an official said. The average number of admissions — around 20 at this time of the year — is half that of last year’s figure. On August 25, there were 17 admissions and on August 26, just 16.

The figures tell the tale. What they don’t reveal are the many heart-rending examples of children being refused admission. Sumit and Smriti Mahapatra were one of the parents whose child (three-year-old Ishita) was turned away this Tuesday with nothing more than a cursory look. “She was suffering from high fever. Doctors told us that this is a very common occurrence during this time of the year,” Sumit said.

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