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Test delay charge on hospital
- Junior doctor says JE samples sent on August 1 to NBMCH were tested five days later

Aug. 6: A junior doctor of North Bengal Medical College and Hospital said 38 patients’ samples for Japanese Encephalitis tests that were given to the North Bengal Medical College’s microbiology department on August 1 were tested after five days.

The doctor, who was part of the health camp in Jalpaiguri conducted in association with a voluntary organisation, said 500 people were examined at a health camp in Jalpaiguri on August 1.

Dipak Giri, the junior doctor, said: “We collected samples from 38 patients who had symptoms of JE. The samples were given to the microbiology department of NBMCH on August 1 for JE tests.” He added that the hospital told them the reports would be given on August 3. “However, on that day, we were told that there was a shortage of kits and the reports would be available on August 5,” Giri said.

When the doctors asked for the reports on August 5, “the samples had still not been tested”, the doctor said.

Giri said the tests were done this afternoon and one of the 38 samples confirmed Japanese Encephalitis.

Across north Bengal, six persons died in the past 24 hours. One of the six was a confirmed case of Japanese Encephalitis.

Giri and 12 other junior doctors of NBMCH and the North Bengal Dental College and Hospital had conducted the camp at Katahmbari in Jalpaiguri district that has reported the largest number of suspected Japanese Encephalitis cases.

NBMCH superintendent, Sabyasachi Das denied the allegations made by the junior doctors. “We have four JE test kits which arrived yesterday. The four kits are sufficient to conduct tests on around 400 patients. All samples brought to the microbiology department have been tested. The kits come from the National Institute of Virology in Pune and there may be some delay in their arrival,” Das said.

Some NBMCH junior doctors alleged that the microbiology department was not testing all samples being given to it. They submitted a memorandum to NBMCH superintendent Das today, demanding that adequate kits be kept in stock so that all the samples are tested.

“There is a shortage of kits in the department and we have come to know that technicians are randomly choosing samples for tests. This practice is not at all ethical,” said Chandan Kumar Shit, a junior doctor.

Relatives of some patients also complained about the slow treatment in the district hospitals, which have been instructed by health officials to treat local patients for fever first, instead of referring them straightaway to NBMCH.

Relatives of Jaya Saiba, who died at NBMCH today, said she had been denied treatment at Jalpaiguri district hospital where she had been admitted on Monday.

Lakha Saiba, Jaya’s mother-in-law, said: “Jaya was accommodated in the ward as there was no bed at the district hospital. But no doctor came to treat her. Yesterday evening, I asked doctors to refer her to NBMCH but they refused. I got Jaya discharged and brought her to NBMCH around 3.30am today. Doctors here (NBMCH) informed us about her death at noon today. My daughter-in-law died because of delay in treatment by doctors.”

Jaya, 22, was from Banarhat in Jalpaiguri district.

A section of patients at the fever clinic in NBMCH said they had to stand in queues for hours to meet a doctor.

Mehboob Rehman from Phansidewa was among 15 patients seen waiting outside the fever clinic around 1.30pm. The 35-year-old said he had been standing in the queue since 10am but his turn was yet to come. “There is only one doctor at the clinic and that is why it is taking so much time,” he said.

Although three doctors were posted in the fever clinic, opened recently in the wake of the viral outbreak, one is on leave because he has to undergo a gall bladder surgery.

“So, there are only two doctors at the fever clinic right now. The majority of patients come to the medicine OPD with different kinds of ailments. There are around 25 doctors in the medicine OPD and yet, they are not enough to attend to all patients,” said a doctor.

Of the six fatalities reported today, Arjun Singha, 27, of Goalpokhar in North Dinajpur, died at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital at 7.30am today of Japanese Encephalitis.

The other reported deaths were categorised as Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, as tests have not confirmed the presence of the virus.

Jaya Saiba, 22, and 13-year-old Sapna Barman of Mekhliganj, Cooch Behar, also died in NBMCH.

The other three deaths were reported from Jalpaiguri district hospital.

Umesh Singh, 58, and Ramesh Chandra Ghosh, 72, died early this morning. A woman, admitted with symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis died in the hospital last night, sources said.

Some relatives of patients have questioned the efficiency of the health set-up in the districts.

“Senior health officials had said that test kits would be sent to Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar district hospitals, but even today, JE tests are being conducted in NBMCH only,” the kin of a patient said at NBMCH.

Hospital sources have confirmed that JE tests are not being conducted in these two hospitals.

B.S. Sathpathy, the director of health services, could not be contacted.