The SSKM Hospital cannot refer a patient to another hospital without ensuring a bed there.
This was part of a set of directives that the apex referral hospital’s committee on patient welfare issued on Thursday, apparently prompted by the public outcry and bad press over the way it treated Madhumita Halder, the Behala homemaker whose left leg had come under the wheels of a bus.
A meeting, attended by senior ministers Madan Mitra and Firhad Hakim, decided that no patient seeking treatment at SSKM Hospital would be turned away for the lack of beds. “The hospital will have to ensure that the patient gets a bed at the hospital where he is being referred to. We have seen that the patient has to go from one hospital to another,” said minister Mitra, the co-chairman of the Rogi Kalyan Samiti.
“If at all a patient has to be referred elsewhere, the doctor would have to clearly write down the reason along with the date and time. The director of the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research (IPGMER)-SSKM would check the register regularly,” he added.
The SSKM committee also decided that a team of doctors would do the rounds of the wards twice a day — in the morning and between 8pm and 11pm.
Mitra said: “We will introduce an ambulance service between Bangur Institute of Neurosciences and SSKM so that critical patients don’t have to be wheeled around in trolleys.”
Medical emergency experts had remarked that Madhumita, who returned home on Wednesday on a pair of aluminium crutches, might not have lost a leg if she had received treatment on time.
Soon after the accident on February 26 at Mahabirtala near New Alipore, a 15-minute walk from her BL Shah Road home, she was taken to MR Bangur Hospital, where doctors bandaged her wound and advised that she be taken to a medical college.
She was brought to SSKM, where she was left unattended for over an hour before a doctor cut open the bandage, inspected the wound and bandaged it again. The Halders were told no bed was available.
She was then taken to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital and wheeled into the operating theatre on the morning of February 27, almost 12 hours after the accident. Her leg had to be amputated two weeks later because of a life-threatening infection.
Against this backdrop, without referring to the Madhumita case, Mitra warned that any doctor found guilty of dereliction of duty would be suspended. “To facilitate patient referrals, the hospital authorities have decided to induct two deputy superintendents into the patient welfare committee,” he said. These officials would be accessible round-the-clock for ensuring beds at other hospitals if none is available at SSKM.
Chandrima Bhattacharya, the minister of state for health, said the government has made it obligatory for state-run hospitals to not refuse a patient treatment or admission.
Doctors and health officials said the decision would be hard to implement, given the patient rush and poor infrastructure at government hospitals in the rural areas. “The problem will persist until the load on medical colleges in Calcutta reduces. SSKM and other medical colleges have more than 100 per cent occupancy because of the flow from the districts,” said a Swastha Bhavan official.
An expert committee set up by chief minister Mamata Banerjee had recommended a bed bureau — essentially a central control room that would monitor the availability of beds in hospitals. The bureau is yet to take off.