Calcutta, Oct. 31: Lying on a bed in the paediatric ward of NRS Medical College and Hospital, four-year-old Sougata (name changed) cringed in fear last night every time a cracker burst just outside the window. A leukaemia patient, he lay tossing and turning in pain, unable to go to sleep as a section of the hospital staff celebrated outside.
“Don’t mention my son’s name or the staff will take it out on us tomorrow,” his mother pleaded. “My son was in so much pain that the doctors had to give him a tranquilliser, but the noise outside robbed him of his sleep. He was crying and asking me to do something, but I was helpless and I wept along with him.”
Sougata was not the only one to suffer last night, though his trauma may have been more than most. Scores of other patients lay staring at the ceiling as music blared over loudspeakers, drums beat and bugles played deep into the night in the staff quarters outside.
Babun (name changed), a thalassaemia patient, had come to the hospital for a blood transfusion yesterday. After the painful procedure, the doctors had admitted him and advised him a night’s rest. But this is what his mother had to say today: “Last night was a nightmare. Let alone any rest, he lay agonising through most of the night because of the sound outside.”
Yesterday morning, governor Viren Shah had said that hospital staff should be more “sensitive and compassionate”. Hours later, over 1,000 group-D employees of NRS and their families celebrated chhat puja on the hospital premises, keeping patients up through the night with their revelry and crackers.
Efforts by other members of the hospital staff to persuade them to respect the silence zone were ignored. “We have orders that crackers should not be burst and music played over loudspeakers on the hospital premises, but all these were flouted by this section of the staff,” admitted the deputy superintendent of the hospital, Dilip Kumar Jha.
The hospital authorities filed an FIR today. A team from the Entally police station visited the hospital, picked up a few children who were soon released after their parents “assured” the hospital authorities that “this would not be repeated in the future”.
But no one is convinced. “This happens at all festivals,” said a lady intern, who did not wish to be named. The post-graduate examinations for doctors are scheduled from November to January, the intern said, but this does not stop people from disturbing peace on the campus.
“During Diwali, too, crackers were burst on the hospital premises and music played loudly. But nobody, including the authorities, did anything about it.”
Hospital authorities conceded that this was correct, “but it crossed all limits during chhat puja”. The “inability” to take action apparently stems from the fact that group-D staff are unionised and owe allegiance to the powerful CPM-dominated coordination committee.
In defence of inaction, the superintendent of the hospital, Shyamal Rudra, said: “I was not here when all this was happening. When I got to know of it today, I lodged a complaint with the police.”