A part of the building housing the 350-bed SSKM facility that has been out of bounds for three years, adding to the space crunch at Bengal’s largest referral hospital. Picture by Amit Datta
Bengal’s largest referral hospital shoos away patients or makes them sleep on the floor for want of space while a 350-bed unit lies unused for three years because of a blame game over its renovation.
A part of the main block of SSKM Hospital has been shut since 2008 for renovation and is already eight months past the deadline for reopening. Neither the public works department, which is carrying out the renovation, nor the health department, which commissioned the Rs 8.8-crore project, has a proper explanation for why the renovation hasn’t been completed so far.
“The PWD was scheduled to hand over the wing to us last October. Then they revised the deadline to December, after which there has been no official assurance on when we will get access to that wing. The hospital is overburdened, which is why we are forced to refuse patients and lay mattresses on the floor for many of those we take in,” Pradip Mitra, the director of SSKM and the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research, said.
Metro had reported on May 25 how even Mamata Banerjee’s recommendation can’t guarantee a patient a bed at SSKM. The hospital has 1,765 beds, including the 350 in the unit that has been shut for the past three years.
Patients who don’t get a bed have to make do with a mattress on the floor, more often than not in a corner of a ward or a corridor where they sweat and suffer without a fan and other basic services. Many stay awake through the night for fear of being bitten by rats. It isn’t easy for the doctors and nurses either, who have to squat to examine the patients on the floor.
“If we had access to the closed wing of the hospital, 350 more patients would have got beds and better medical care,” director Mitra said.
The eastern part of the building will house the paediatric surgery and ENT units on the top floor, a paediatric intensive care unit, paediatric high dependency unit and respiratory care unit on the second floor and the general surgery and medicine wards on the first floor.
Sources said the renovation project could have been completed on schedule had there been better co-ordination between the agencies and departments involved in it.
“There is a serious lack of co-ordination between the hospital and PWD authorities. The project was planned in 2008 but the work order was issued in 2009,” said an official. “Then the health department delayed releasing funds, stretching the project further.”
The electrical and civil engineering departments of the PWD blamed the hospital for the delay. “The eastern wing was handed over to us in November 2009, almost 10 months after the work order was issued. They cited problems in shifting the patients who were undergoing treatment there,” said Arun Nath, the assistant chief engineer of the PWD at SSKM Hospital.
“There was a pharmacy on the ground floor that was shifted only last June. How could we have started work on that floor without the entire space being vacated? Given all the constraints, it is unfair to blame the PWD for the slow progress of renovation,” he added.
Alleged differences among the authorities of some departments of the hospital have added to the delay.
“At a meeting last month, doctors of the paediatric surgery department said they would need the entire top floor to bring all their units under one roof. Nobody had raised this point when the original plan was drawn up with the top floor meant to be shared by the paediatric and ENT departments,” an official said.
Every single day’s delay in reopening the closed wing means at least 350 patients losing out on a bed each. Last week, 32-year-old Burdwan farmer Sanjay Kabiraj reached SSKM with two damaged kidneys, only to be turned away.
“We took him to SSKM for dialysis but the doctors asked him to come in December. Surely they don’t expect him to survive that long without treatment,” said Swarup Ghosh, a relative.