A 65-year-old man with a head injury and a bleeding nose lay unattended for over four hours at SSKM on Thursday as the hospital Mamata Banerjee had put on notice nine days ago returned to its old ways.
Taxi driver Udham Singh, a resident of Kalighat, was brought to the state’s largest referral hospital at 7.40am, minutes after collapsing at the mouth of Harish Chatterjee Street.
“Udham seemed to have suffered a head injury during the fall and was bleeding profusely from the nose. He was also vomiting. We took him straight to the emergency ward of SSKM, little knowing that an ordeal awaited us,” said the taxi driver’s employer, Sukhwinder Singh.
Sukhwinder and the plainclothes policeman accompanying him — the cop was on his way to the chief minister’s residence to join duty when he spotted Udham collapsing — spent the next four hours fighting red tape and callousness of the kind that could have cost Udham his life.
“The emergency ward did not have an empty bed. So we put Udham on a trolley and waited for a doctor to take a look at him. We waited sometime before a junior doctor spared a few seconds for us to explain what had happened,” the policeman said.
Another few minutes went by before the junior doctor administered an injection to Udham and advised a brain scan “as quickly as possible”. Sukhwinder and his fellow Samaritan immediately headed for the counter to get a hospital ticket, only to learn that nothing comes easy at SSKM.
“It took a lot of pleading for the person at the counter to give us the ticket, by which time Udham’s condition seemed to have worsened,” Sukhwinder recounted.
When Udham’s employer reached the second floor that houses the CT scan unit with a chit given by a doctor, he was told that the procedure would cost Rs 700. “I protested, arguing that the rules say the scan is free for patients with a recommendation from a doctor in the emergency ward. But the employee wouldn’t listen; he asked for a duplicate copy of the chit with the doctor’s recommendation,” Sukhwinder said.
The duo hurried back to the emergency department, where the doctors confirmed that they needn’t pay the Rs 700. “We were advised to get a photocopy of the recommendation slip, though,” the policeman said.
Back at the scan unit, the duo again ran into a wall of red tape. “This time, the staff told us to get the slip stamped at another counter,” the cop said.
He and Sukhwinder did as they were told, but the staff manning the scan unit were hard to please. “But where is the photocopy of the stamped slip?” asked one.
“But you didn’t ask for it when we last spoke to you,” Sukhwinder protested. “Lagbey na to bolini (I didn’t say that we wouldn’t need it),” the employee replied.
The next challenge was to take Udham to the second floor. “We requested a ward boy to help us push the trolley till the scan unit. He refused. When I said that it was his duty to help us, the ward boy claimed that there was separate set of employees at the scan unit for this job,” Sukhwinder said.
Scan over, Udham’s attendants went back to the emergency wing to find that it was time for a change of shifts.
By the time the injured man finally found space in the Curzon Ward — on the floor, not the bed — it was 11.40am.