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Patients rushed to SSKM for 5-minute cure
(From Top) Sanjay Roy and Sahanara Khatoon, who were made to travel hundreds of kilometres to Calcutta with complaints that could be treated anywhere. Pictures by Amit Datta

Calcutta, Sept. 13: A swallowed earring, a stuck tooth and a suspected foreign body in the system ' even these ailments are referred to SSKM, the apex hospital in the state.

The premier hospital already has 1,400 patients, over a thousand above capacity, and repeated appeals to medical colleges and district hospitals to stop unnecessary referrals have had no effect.

Take the example of 10-year-old Bapi Sheikh, who had breathing problems. When on a holiday at his aunt's place, Bapi had to be rushed to the Behrampore hospital after he complained of breathlessness.

'The doctors examined him for quite some time and then asked him if he gulped down an object. We told the doctor that he may have swallowed a berry seed. The doctors asked us to shift Bapi to Calcutta immediately,' his mother Manjura recalled.

The referral note read: 'The patient is referred to SSKM Hospital for better management of foreign-body bronchus.'

On Saturday, Bapi was brought to NRS Medical College and Hospital around 11.10 pm. At the emergency ward, he was made to wait several hours before a doctor took a look.

Doctors there referred Bapi to SSKM with a note. 'No cardio-thoracic emergency available at present.'

As it was late, the family took Bapi to SSKM the next day. On Sunday, he was admitted to the ENT department of the hospital.

ENT surgeon Arunavo Sengupta said: 'It did not appear that a foreign body (object) had got stuck anywhere. To make sure, we used a bronchoscope and confirmed that there was no foreign object inside.'

Bapi, doctors said, has a lung infection that could well be diagnosed at any hospital anywhere in the state.

Sahanara Khatoon, 8, had accidentally swallowed her earring and it was stuck in her bronchus.

She was taken to Midnapur Medical College and Hospital where doctors said they did not have a bronchoscope to get it out.

The government, however, claims that all district hospitals are equipped with such ('simple') gadgets.

SSKM superintendent Santanu Tripathi said unnecessary referrals, even from medical colleges and hospitals in the city, are on the rise resulting in myriad problems.

In the city since last Wednesday, Sahanara's parents moved from one government clinic to the other looking for some help for the little girl. 'We finally came to the ENT department at SSKM,' said her uncle Shamshul.

Aided with a bronchoscope, Sengupta and his team took out the earring in minutes.

The third such patient at the ENT department the same day was referred all the way from Agartala.

Sanjay Roy, 24, had swallowed a tooth, which got stuck in his oesophagus. 'We went to the best hospital there, but the doctors told us that they did not have an oesophaguscope (an Indian instrument costs Rs 15,000) and I was referred to SSKM Hospital,' said Sanjay's uncle Subrata Saha.

After spending about Rs 16,000 on the trip and a few thousand more on hotels, Sanjay, whose tooth was taken out in five minutes, is hoping to head home soon. 'If only this could have been done in Agartala itself,' Saha said.

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