The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Probe team in place, penal action lined up

With two “avoidable” deaths in a span of four days, the government woke up to the grim reality of gross negligence in state-run hospitals and ordered a thorough probe into the death of college student Susmita Biswas at SSKM Hospital on Friday.

A three-member team, comprising senior physician (medicine) Alokendu Ghosh, deputy superintendent Tushar Kanti Ghosh and hospital secretary A.K. Samanta, have been asked to probe Susmita’s death and submit a report by Tuesday.

However, surgeon superintendent of the hospital, Debdwaipayan Chattopadhyay, who showcaused group D staffer Shankar Sau for removing the oxygen mask from a sinking Susmita’s nostrils on Friday evening, said the inquiry committee had already found evidence of “gross negligence” on the part of attending doctors in the emergency section.

“I will advocate the suspension of the two doctors,” Chattopadhyay said. “A showcause notice has already been issued, and since I am only empowered to recommend action against doctors, I will exercise that right in my report on Monday,” he added.

Senior doctors, Gobindo Mondol, who was on duty from 10 am to 2 pm on Friday, and Debasish Roy, who was attending to patients in the emergency section from 2 pm, are the two under the scanner of the inquiry team.

Earlier on Saturday, Susmita’s father Samir Biswas met the surgeon superintendent and lodged a written complaint against the doctors and hospital staff of the emergency section.

Neither Mondol nor Roy, the two doctors at the centre of the controversy, was available for comment on Saturday. It was learnt that the duo had argued that since no bed was available, they had asked Susmita’s parents to shift her to another hospital, where she could be immediately treated.

The inquiry team will speak to visiting physician N. Sarkar, who had advised Susmita immediate hospitalisation. “We will find out why the doctors on emergency duty ignored the advice,” a senior health department official said.

The group D staffer, Shankar Sau, who had removed the oxygen mask from Susmita’s face, said he was only following orders from the attending doctors.

During the day, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra asked for separate reports on Susmita’s death and inquired how moribund patients, who must be admitted under the Supreme Court’s directive, are turned away. “I have asked for an explanation from the hospital authorities by Monday evening, before taking any action,” Mishra said.

Chattopadhyay said that an interim report will be submitted at Writers’ Buildings on Monday.

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