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Where child waits 36 hours to breathe & civic bosses-in-waiting choke roads
- Distress baby gets SSKM shock

A baby with a peanut stuck in his respiratory tract turned blue for want of oxygen as he and his desperate mother spent a night under a tree outside SSKM Hospital waiting for junior doctors to end their strike.

Rakesh Mondal, barely a year and a half, was hauled from one ill-equipped government healthcare centre to another on Saturday after the hospital that had the equipment and the expertise to treat him turned him away citing the junior doctors’ strike.

Mother Iti, who feared her son had lost the battle after he had even stopped crying, took him to the emergency ward of SSKM for “one last try” on Sunday morning and was noticed by a senior doctor who asked the medical officer to admit the boy.

“He was in severe respiratory distress, We stabilised him by giving him an injection and put him on nebulisation,” said Arunabha Sengupta, associate professor of the ENT department who was called in to treat the boy.

Sengupta and two other senior doctors finally performed a bronchoscopy on Monday to extract the peanut stuck in Rakesh’s respiratory tract. “A few more hours and he could have died as the peanut was completely blocking the tract,” the associate professor said.

So shouldn’t Rakesh have received emergency attention on Saturday? “Junior doctors form a very important back-up team in the operation theatre. But once we came to know about the child’s condition, we didn’t wait for the agitation to get over,” said Sengupta.

Father Prasanta, a farmer in Birbhum’s Mallickpur village, said he took his son to MR Bangur Hospital after being turned away from SSKM, only to be told that the institute did not have the facilities to treat such a patient. Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital in Park Circus was the next stop for the Mondals but the response was the same.

“I was horrified to hear that such a large hospital did not have the basic facilities to treat my son,” said Prasanta.

Around 7.30pm, Prasanta and his wife took their child to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, where doctors said that SSKM was the boy’s best chance of survival. “An hour later, we were back at SSKM’s emergency ward but the junior doctors were still on strike. I lost hope,” Prasanta said.

Iti cried and prayed through the night with Rakesh on her lap and her husband by her side under the shade of a tree. Several other patients who were refused admission and their families were also forced to spend the night in the open.

The family’s ordeal had begun on Friday afternoon with Rakesh being taken to a healthcare unit in Bolpur and then to Burdwan Medical College, where doctors referred him to SSKM. “But he had to wait another 36 hours to get medical attention. I almost lost him,” cried Iti.

Normality was restored at SSKM on Tuesday with the junior doctors calling off their strike, triggered by an assault on six doctors by a patient’s relatives, late on Monday.

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