The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Doctors run, leaving two to treat 700
- Fear of workload triggers chain reaction at BC Roy Hospital

Calcutta, Nov. 18: Two doctors struggled to treat 700 sick children at BC Roy Memorial Hospital’s outpatient and emergency departments today as nine of their colleagues took leave without notice.

When news reached them after about two hours, the medical superintendent and vice-principal rushed in from their offices to help with the lengthening queues of crying children and anxious parents. But still the children, many seriously ill, had to wait for hours.

“My two-month-old son was not breathing properly. But I had to wait for three hours before a doctor could see him,” said Azmira Bibi, whose son Ali Hussain has upper respiratory tract disease.

The two doctors who had reported for duty ' along with a few interns ' offered a strange explanation why nine of the 11 doctors on the shift had played truant together.

Apparently, three of them had told the rest they would not be coming today. The other six decided that this would mean an enormous work load at the hospital. So they decided not to turn up either, leaving two colleagues to handle a pressure they thought was too heavy for eight.

“This is unprecedented. I, along with my RMOs (resident medical officers) and postgraduate trainees, had to work non-stop to control the situation,” superintendent Mrinal Kanti Chatterjee said.

“I have communicated the matter to the director of medical education and will send a detailed report tomorrow.”

The authorities had recently issued a notice urging doctors not to go on leave together. It said: “It is seen that in previous years there was a trend to take accumulated leave at the end of the year. The hospital services suffer due to this.”

Yesterday, at a meeting with the doctors, the authorities had requested them again not to go on leave in groups. At the most, three could be off duty together ' but all had to notify this beforehand.

“Our colleagues stayed away for fear of having to treat a large number of patients,” one of the two doctors who had turned up for work told Chatterjee.

“This practice has to be stopped; action must be taken against them.”

“So many doctors taking leave on a single day without prior notice hasn’t happened before,” Chatterjee told The Telegraph. “This is not expected in a hospital.”

One-and-a-half-year-old Anamika Sarkar had to wait from 9 am to 2 pm before a doctor could see her. “She is running a high temperature and has been vomiting,” her mother said.

“It is sheer luck that no deaths took place today,” a doctor said.

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