Want to keep the baby-death toll down' Just ask the parents to take them home. With the horror story at the B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children raising the spectre of the 1994 tragedy in which 60 crib deaths were recorded in a week at Eden Hospital, the Medical College authorities have pushed the panic button.
With the Sishu Niketan and the adjoining old nursery at Eden Hospital suffering from similar ailments as B.C. Roy hospital — too few beds, too many babies; too few oxygen cylinders, too many patients; too few nurses, too many to be nursed — a move is on to lessen the occupancy burden. Three children, including a new-born, died at the hospital on Monday, and a two-month-old baby died on Tuesday. Though they refused to divulge the cause of death, officials feel that by discharging the “less critical cases”, the strain would lessen.
“We fear more deaths may occur if we can’t lessen the load on the two paediatric wards,” said medical superintendent Kusum Kumar Adhikari. He has instructed the head of the paediatric ward, Dr Sukanta Chatterjee, to ensure “quick disposal” of less-critical cases. “We are requesting parents to take home those children who show improvement,” he explained.
At the Sishu Niketan, there are 75 beds for more than 100 children, while at the old nursery, there are 15 beds for about 25 patients. “We are forced to assign two or three babies to a bed, though we know this could lead to infection,” admitted Adhikari.
Though ventilation in the wards is also a problem, the most pressing need now is to increase the number of beds. “We don’t even have space for conducting critical surgeries,” Chatterjee said.
Parents share his anxiety. “How can a doctor conduct an operation if my son has to share a bed' Who will be responsible if my son picks up an infection'” asked K.C. Parui from a Howrah village, who brought his son to Sishu Niketan for treatment.
“There are less than four doctors and nurses for every 15 patients in the two wards,” Chatterjee admitted. So it’s BC Roy Memorial Hospital revisited, with parents often seen administering oxygen to their babies themselves. Junior doctors spoke out against the lack of oxygen cylinders and the irregular supply of rectified spirit. “We asked for at least 10 oxygen cylinders but not a single one has reached us yet,” alleged one doctor.