The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ward without docs, all night long

All night long, the emergency ward of one of the busiest government-run healthcare institutes in town went without a single medicine man, as a bleary-eyed hostel superintendent was forced to stand in for three doctors ‘on duty’, all of whom were missing in action.

The startling revelations about 12 dark hours of September 7 have now forced the Medical College and Hospital authorities to showcause the truant doctors — as also the clerk who bunked duty and another doctor from the preceding shift who left without handing over charge — to explain why no disciplinary action should be taken against them.

It was well past midnight when the hostel superintendent was called to the emergency ward to substitute for the entire night-duty team. As a consequence, the hospital kept on refusing patients and directing them elsewhere. Among those made to suffer by the ‘no patients please’ position taken by Medical College was an elderly accident victim and another senior citizen with a cardiac condition, recounted nurses who had to deny them entry.

“Some form of disciplinary action is going to be taken as there can be no excuse for an entire emergency ward to go without a single on-duty doctor for an entire night,” said Medical College principal Jayashree Mitra, on Wednesday.

This is the single-largest disciplinary action against errant healthcare workers in a government hospital in the recent past. The replies to the showcause — ranging from a sick-call (the medical certificate having been issued from the same hospital) to a “I forgot” — have irked the authorities even more, said officials.

The hospital authorities have now stitched together an account of what exactly happened on the night of September 7 and the early hours of September 8. Doctors on duty till 8 pm on September 7 started leaving much before the appointed hour. Not a single doctor was there after 7.30 pm, an official admitted. “Till the doctor on the next shift turns up, rules do not allow those on duty to leave the ward,” he added.

But that’s exactly how it happened that night. Making matters worse was the failure of a single doctor on the night shift to show up. At around 10 pm, the nurses panicked. “Many patients were turning up and it was becoming increasingly difficult for them to control the crowd of those denied admission,” said an official. The nurses then called up Mitra, superintendent K.K. Adhikari and deputy superintendent A. Biswas, alerting them about the emergency in the emergency ward.

The hospital authorities, admittedly “shamed” by the doctors’ conduct, said they would make sure that such an act of callousness was not repeated. Superintendent Adhikari said: “We have asked so many doctors to show cause as we want to send out a message that indiscipline will not be tolerated.”

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