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Price of strike: a youth’s life

Rampurhat, Aug. 1: A 20-year-old youth suffering from septicaemia died in a government hospital in Birbhum after he could not be shifted to a Burdwan facility because of a strike by private ambulance operators.

Sentu Besra, a labourer, had been admitted to Rampurhat sub-divisional hospital at 7 yesterday morning with acute stomach pain and rectal bleeding. He was diagnosed with septicaemia and referred to Burdwan Medical College Hospital, 120km away. Sentu died at the Rampurhat hospital around 11pm after none of the 18 ambulances agreed to ferry him to Burdwan.

The ambulance operators struck work after the sub-divisional officer, Uma Sankar S, told the vehicle owners during an inspection to park outside the hospital compound. The ambulances had been parked haphazardly.

Rampurhat sub-divisional hospital, whose sole ambulance has been out of order for the past four years, hires the 18 vehicles whenever needed.

A doctor at the hospital said Sentu was bleeding from the rectum and was detected with septicaemia. “We referred Sentu to Burdwan Medical College Hospital around 7pm for better treatment,” the doctor said.

But Sentu’s family members did not get an ambulance because of the strike.

“We requested all the ambulance drivers to take my son to Burdwan but they refused. We repeatedly requested the hospital superintendent but he could do nothing,” said Sarbani Besra, Sentu’s mother.

Sentu could not be taken in a private car as his condition was critical.

After Sentu’s death, around 25 of his family members demonstrated in front of the hospital superintendent’s office.

Hospital superintendent Subodh Kumar Mondal told The Telegraph: “Sentu Besra’s condition was critical and so we had referred him to Burdwan Medical College Hospital. But the patient could not be taken there because of the strike by ambulance operators.”

SDO Uma Sankar and subdivisional police officer Koteswara Rao rushed to the Rampurhat hospital after coming to know about the death and spoke to the ambulance operators.

The strike was lifted following a meeting between the ambulance operators and the district and hospital authorities this morning.

“We actually wanted to stop touts, who earn a fast buck by arranging ambulances for patients. We have decided that the ambulance service would be monitored by the hospital and a pre-paid system will be introduced from tomorrow. It was decided at the meeting that the ambulances would be parked in the northern corner of the hospital,” the SDO said.

A hospital official said the ambulance rate to carry patients to Burdwan Medical College Hospital was fixed today. “An ambulance will charge Rs 1,800 to take a patient to Burdwan Medical College Hospital. The rate will be on the basis of kilometres for other destinations such as Suri,” the official said.

Arindam Choudhury, one of the 18 ambulance operators, said: “We are sorry about the patient’s death but we had repeatedly requested the hospital authorities to address our parking problems. It was decided at today’s meeting that we will be allowed to park our ambulances in a corner of the hospital.”