The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Back at last outpost of hope

B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children: the last stop for so many kids before death. Yet, there’s no stopping parents bringing their children to this Narkeldanga hospital.

The reason is simple. This is the only paediatric referral hospital in the state and these hapless fathers and mothers have nowhere else to take their babies.

Despite the spectre of death, the din of protests and demands for scalps, dozens like Sheela Kar of Bankura, Shobha Mandal of Bhatpara and Kishor Murmu of Rajarhat continued to seek admission for their children in the hospital.

Take the case of Kishor Murmu. The two-month-old boy, living on the northern fringes of the city, was suffering from jaundice. He was first taken to a private healthcare centre at Ultadanga. He was refused admission there as the nursing home authorities admitted they did not have the facilities to treat him.

Murmu was then taken to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital. But there too he was refused admission. They were told that B.C. Roy hospital would be the “best place” to go.

Parents of 17 children got them admitted to B.C. Roy hospital on Monday, the day nine children died. Five more had died on Sunday. The deaths, doctors said, were due to the “absence of basic infrastructure”.

On Tuesday, despite admissions starting from 9 am (the authorities were, till then, undecided whether to restrict entry), 14 babies had been admitted by the evening.

“For most patients who come here, this is something more than the ‘best place’,” hospital superintendent Anup Mandal claimed. “This is, in fact, the only place.”

Parents of another two-month-old coming all the way from Bankura, Sheela Kar, and three-year-old Shobha Mandal (brought here because of a head-injury) showed how true Mandal was. Shobha’s parents said they could not go anywhere else despite being told that the hospital did not even have a CT-scan, essential to investigate any injury to the head that was causing the child to vomit.

Sheela’s parents had initially taken her to another government hospital, Nilratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital, for treatment of acute bronchitis. “Kintu okhane thik laglo na (But it wasn’t quite all right there),” said her mother Meena Kar.

Inside the horror wards, nothing had changed. Overcrowded beds, precious few oxygen cylinders, no nurses in sight, children in pain and hapless parents. Hapless because they must bring their babies here and watch them suffer.

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