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Kneejerk change after every death

It has taken one death to undo what was set off by another.

Unnerved by the negligence that claimed Susmita Biswas — who died at SSKM Hospital last month after being refused admission for half-a-day — the state health department had set in motion a no-refusal regime, asking hospitals to take in every patient queuing up for a bed, or floor-space.

But Badal Chakraborty’s death, because the same hospital — burdened by the government’s no-refusal directive and the dozens of “requests” pouring in daily — did not have any space to accommodate him, seems to have taught the state health department a lesson. Chakraborty died on Sunday morning after spending the night under a tree on the hospital campus.

“We are now telling the hospital administrations to first check how much and what kind of medical attention every patient queuing up for admission actually needs,” state director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said on Monday.

Why, for instance, must a renal-failure patient queue up at SSKM Hospital for admission' “If every patient comes to this hospital, how can it have space'” asked Chatterjee, adding that the government would try to set up dialysis units at more hospitals.

The SSKM brass complained about one aspect of the patient pressure. “Every day, we get anything between 30 and 40 requests from government officials, politicians and even journalists,” said a senior SSKM official. “How do you think we cope' Well, at the cost of people like Badal Chakraborty.”

Senior Writers’ Buildings officials on Monday said they would ask every major teaching hospital in the city to handle cases more judiciously.

“We have made it clear that no moribund patient should be refused and the Supreme Court guidelines in this matter should be followed,” one of them said. “But we are also telling the hospital authorities to be careful so that patients not requiring specialised care are not admitted, as that can lead to more critical patients being refused,” he added.

The basic cause of the repeated horror stories at hospitals, say health department officials, is the government’s inability to implement many of its own guidelines. One of them, the director of health services said, was the proposal to have the teaching hospitals “called up” by other hospitals, so that every case did not reach the five biggest hospitals and some method could be followed in patient distribution.

For instance, it was suggested that a patient referred out of Lady Dufferin Hospital would first go to Medical College and Hospital. “On Saturday, I received a complaint that relatives of a patient, asked to go to Medical College and Hospital, went to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital instead, because it was nearer to their homes,” said health services director Chatterjee. “Repeated directives in this regard have failed to yield any result,” he admitted.

And then, the problem of touts “influencing” patients — despite sporadic crackdowns — remains a major medical care menace.

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