Sutama and Souryendu outside Apollo hospital on Sunday. (Amit Datta)
A woman sharing a bed with her five-year-old son at a private hospital woke up with a start and saw a snake slither up her right hand early on Sunday.
Sutama Mazumdar, whose son was admitted to Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals with diarrhoea, said she was woken up early on Sunday by a “cold sensation” on her right hand.
“It was around 5.45am. Initially, I did not realise what it was but when I looked hard, I saw a foot-long black snake slither up my right arm,” said Sutama, who was sharing a Rs 2,200-a-day bed in the female general ward with son Souryendu on the second floor of the Bypass hospital.
For a moment, Sutama was too scared to move. “I thought it was going to bite me. But I managed to remove it with my left hand,” she said.
The 36-year-old woman said hospital employees had told her that the snake was non-venomous and might have entered the hospital through an AC duct. She said the AC duct in the ward was open.
“The snake was small and non-venomous and it was killed. It was a one-off case. We are trying to find out how it sneaked into the building,” said an official. “It could be that a bird had dropped the snake on the roof of the hospital, from where it climbed down to the ward.”
According to the authorities, there could be snakes in the area as the hospital is surrounded by trees and bushes.
Hospital officials said they had outsourced pest control to a professional agency. “Carbolic acid and pesticides are sprayed everyday to prevent snakes and insects from entering the hospital,” said the official.
A traumatised Sutama called up husband Utpal Kar, a teacher at a primary school in the Sunderbans. By the time he arrived at the hospital around 7am from their family home in Birati, the mother-son duo were shifted to a cabin. The five other patients in the six-bedded general ward were also shifted.
The boy was discharged in the afternoon as scheduled.
“When I cried out for help, several hospital employees rushed in. They shifted me and my son to a cabin on the same floor.... I still shudder to think what could have happened had the snake been poisonous and bitten me or my son,” said Sutama.
“My wife was in trauma when I arrived at the hospital. She started crying when she saw me and could barely speak,” Utpal recounted. “Senior officials of the hospital apologised to me.”
In the afternoon, he lodged a complaint with the hospital management.
Experts said non-venomous snakes, too, can be dangerous. “A non-venomous snake’s bite can cause injury, often because of laceration caused by the snake’s teeth. A bite can also lead to infection or trigger a severe allergic reaction that can turn fatal,” said an official of the state forest department.
Relatives of some patients in the hospital expressed shock over the incident.
“The families of patients admitted to private hospitals pay through the nose for the treatment. The least we expect, apart from quality treatment, is that the hospital complies with all safety norms. What happened today is shocking,” said the mother of a child admitted to the hospital.