Calcutta, Oct. 23: A week after 20-year-old Susmita Biswas died without medical attention at the government’s showpiece SSKM Hospital, the chief minister today announced the removal of its chief and three other senior doctors.
Shaken by a series of tragedies at hospitals over the past fortnight, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said SSKM surgeon superintendent Debdwaipayan Chattopadhyay, his deputy T.K. Ghosh and medical officers Debasish Roy and C.H. Sikdar were being shunted out to mostly desk-bound jobs for what he had earlier described as “terrible negligence”.
Susmita, a college student, died on October 17 after spending almost the entire day at SSKM waiting to be admitted.
“A transfer is a punishment. It means the government no longer has faith in them. They are being removed,” Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings, with health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra seated by him.
As the minister in charge of hospitals which have seen one tragedy after another this month, starting with the death of six-month-old Shabana Parveen and capped by the mysterious disappearance and death of Santosh Hela, Mishra, however, received full support.
“He is an asset among my senior colleagues,” the chief minister said. “We decided on removing them from SSKM on the basis of the report filed by our fact-finding team,” Mishra said.
A non-medical employee, Pradip Dhar, who had reportedly asked Susmita’s parents to take her to the hospital but was nowhere to be found that day, has been suspended.
The probe report by and large confirmed the version of events narrated by Susmita’s father. On Tuesday, her parents recounted their nightmare to Bhattacharjee, after which the chief minister vowed to punish those responsible.
To those who have suffered at the hands of hospitals and, in cases like the present one, paid with the lives of relatives and friends, transfers may not seem to be punishment enough.
But even this would perhaps not have happened had it not been for the public outrage the recent incidents have caused. Chattopadhyay, once a favourite of the government, will now be installed in an office in Salt Lake, which, ironically, runs the state health system development project funded by the World Bank.
The irony does not end there. Santanu Tripathy, the vice-principal of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital who was also appointed its superintendent only a few days ago, was given charge of SSKM in the evening. It was Calcutta Medical from where Shabana’s parents had turned away on October 13.
In Shabana’s case, the chief minister said, there was a communication gap because the two sides spoke different languages.
“Her parents were told that admission wouldn’t cost them anything but they might require Rs 800 for medicines. The admission was registered but they did not understand it. This is an exceptional case, though that too is unfortunate,” he said.
There was no explanation as to how a critically ill child, accompanied by unlettered parents, could simply be taken away from a hospital after admission is registered. Nor was responsibility pinned. (See Metro)