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Death injects life into heart care unit

Siliguri, Dec. 9: The death of a doctor at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital on Tuesday night spurred the authorities to start the Intensive Coronary Care Unit yesterday evening, three years after it was shut down and a week ahead of the stipulated date of its re-opening.

The ICCU was scheduled to re-open on December 7, the NBMCH sources said, but it was postponed to the 15th of this month as some drugs and furniture were yet to arrive.

However, the atmosphere at the NBMCH grew tense yesterday after Mukul Mukhopadhyay's death. Members of the Junior Doctors’ Council (JDC) mounting pressure on the authorities to immediately start the ICCU. To mitigate the tension, the authorities decided to open it yesterday itself.

“The doctor suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to the ICU which is not equipped to treat heart diseases. Had the ICCU been functioning, he would have got specialised care as facilities to treat heart patients are available there. His chances of survival might have been better,” said Sanjay Kumar Bhowmik, the secretary of the JDC’s NBMCH unit.

It’s sad it took Dr Mukhopadhyay's death to send the message to the NBMCH authorities, Bhowmik said.

“We had been agitating for the past three years to get the ICCU started but for some reason or the other the authorities kept delaying it. The death of Mukul Mukhopadhyay from cardiac arrest was an eye opener for the authorities,” said Prashanta Sarkar, the vice-president of the JDC’s state committee.

If a doctor at the NBMCH is deprived of specialised cardiac treatment then it is evident what is in store for poor patients who come to the NBMCH, Sarkar added.

Last month, too, the JDC members had threatened that they would go on an indefinite hunger strike if the specialist heart unit was not opened immediately.

The ICCU at the NBMCH — the sole referral hospital in north Bengal — was shut down three years ago because of lack of staff just three months after it opened.

The facility has six beds with two additional step-down beds (for recovering patients). Currently it has equipment like a cardiac monitor, a ventilator and a defibrillator.

“We had postponed the opening of the ICCU to December 15 since we were yet to gets some drugs and furniture. But after the death of a colleague from cardiac arrest on Tuesday, we thought it was best not to delay it any further. The charges for availing the ICCU facilities will be fixed in a day or two but it is sure that these would be quite less than rates charged by nursing homes. The pending requirements of drugs and furniture too, shall be fulfilled this week,” said Saibal Gupta, the NBMCH superintendent.

The ICCU, Gupta said, will be manned by two senior doctors and six medical officers from the cardiology department.

“They will be assisted by the residential medical officer, medical officers and house staff of the medicine department. Two nurses and Group D personnel will be present for each shift of seven hours. We have also placed requisition before higher authorities to appoint two specialist doctors and five medical officers for the ICCU. Some costly and sophisticated equipment are needed for which a proposal has also been sent,” Gupta said. However, as of now, no patient has been admitted to the ICCU.

Dr Mukhopadhyay suffered a cardiac arrest at his quarters 30ft from the NBMCH emergency ward around 12am on Tuesday. He was rushed to emergency and shifted to the ICU. The doctor, however, died at 1.15am.

“After his death, we were not ready to take anymore excuses from the authorities and met the principal, superintendent and deputy superintendent yesterday, demanding the immediate opening of the ICCU. They considered our demand and the ICCU started functioning from the evening,” Sarkar said.

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