The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Turned-out child dies as state reads riot act

Calcutta, Oct. 25: On a day health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra hauled up hospital superintendents and senior officials for the series of incidents involving negligence in government hospitals, seven-year-old Aman Singh succumbed to acute gastro-enteritis shortly after being refused admission by a state hospital.

The sky was still dark when a nurse in the emergency wing of the Bhatpara State General Hospital told a stunned Arun Prasad Singh there was nothing they could do to save his son as two doctors in the medicine department were on “indefinite leave”. They have been on leave since the past one month after one of them was beaten up by local residents, the nurse informed him.

“Take him to the Jawahar Lal Nehru Hospital in Kalyani, where he can possibly be saved,” the nurse yelled as Arun Prasad, holding his dying son in his arms, rushed out towards the waiting ambulance.

As the ambulance sped across the Kalyani Expressway in pitch darkness at 3 am, Aman slowly sank. One-and-a-half hours later, when Arun Prasad carried his son into the Kalyani hospital, doctors pronounced Aman “brought dead”.

The latest blot on Bengal’s health care system came hours before health minister Mishra warned hospital heads of what doctors would face if they were found to have neglected their duties.

After a four-hour meeting at Writers’ Buildings, where director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee and director of medical education C.R. Maity were also present, Mishra said “enough was enough” and “none would be spared” if a patient died due to neglect.

“Slackness in duty will be dealt with firmly and we will not tolerate callousness on the part of doctors in their treatment of patients,” he asserted.

The tough talk came in the wake of a series of incidents involving negligence in government hospitals.

On Thursday, four doctors of the SSKM hospital, including the surgeon superintendent and his deputy, were removed for the death of 20-year-old college student Susmita Biswas who lay unattended for hours.

Mishra told the officials the recent incidents had clearly revealed that hospital employees were not doing their work properly. He said that in cases of negligence, not only would the doctors concerned be penalised but also the superintendents and principals of the hospitals and medical colleges.

“The message was that officials and doctors, right from the top to the bottom, would be accountable,” an official said.

Mishra said a day’s salary would be deducted from the pay of all doctors reporting late, while those found guilty of dereliction of duty would be transferred or suspended.

Mishra also announced the government’s plans to introduce 40-bed observation wards in emergency departments of all government hospitals. “The idea is that no one coming to the emergency departments will be turned away,” Chatterjee said.

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