The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Apology row after oxygen-delay death

Krishnagar, Nov. 26: A mob of over a 100 people ransacked a ward office and gheraoed the superintendent of Chakdah State General Hospital last night for two hours after a patient died allegedly due to doctors' negligence and forced him to write an apology letter.

Relatives of the patient said 35-year-old Polly Karmakar, gasping for breath, was admitted to the hospital in Nadia, 55 km from Calcutta, around 11 am with complaints of chest pain. The doctor prescribed administration of oxygen and left as his shift ended.

Karmakar continued to gasp for over three-and-a-half hours as the doctor on the next shift was absent. Finally, well after 2.30 pm, an ENT surgeon was brought in and arranged for oxygen. By then, Karmakar had breathed her last.

Health department bosses in Salt Lake reacted strongly to the incident. Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said the doctor on duty should not have left the hospital without handing over charge to his reliever and ordered a probe.

He also took strong exception to the superintendent's apology. Moloy Banerjee had no right to issue an apology letter without permission from higher authorities, he said.

'The superintendent should not have issued the letter. The doctor, too, is not supposed to leave his post until his reliever arrives and he hands over charge to him. This is a very serious case and I have asked the CMOH (district chief medical officer of health) to carry out a probe,' he added.

A two-member inquiry committee has been set up.

Karmakar's husband, Radhabinod, said his wife was admitted to the female medicine ward under physician Biswajit Sengupta. According to hospital officials, soon after admission the patient was given saline drip and medicines.

'Dr Sengupta prescribed some medicines and asked the nurses to take Polly to the ECG room. She was brought back around 11.45 am,' said Radhabinod.

Sengupta left as his shift was over. 'We bought the medicines from a shop and began to wait for the next doctor. But no one came. Around 2 pm we could not take it anymore and contacted the superintendent. A doctor was sent around 2.40 pm. He was an eye specialist, S. Ghosh, who immediately tried to put my wife on oxygen, but by that time she was dead,' said Radhabinod.

'My wife gasped for breath but the nurses did not give her oxygen though Dr Sengupta had prescribed it,' he added.

When news of the death spread, the Karmakars' relatives and neighbours started agitating at the hospital and ransacked the ward office. They returned around 8 pm and gheraoed the superintendent.

Despite the intervention of the assistant CMOH of Kalyani, the protesters insisted on an apology and dispersed after they got the letter.

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