| Children continue a protest outside B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children. Thursday was the second day that children rallied against the multiple deaths at the hospital. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
The baby deaths at B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children have finally triggered a significant administrative change at teaching hospitals. The post of superintendent will now be upgraded to superintendent-cum-vice-principal, to be drawn from the Medical Education Service (MES), and not from the West Bengal Health Services.
This development coincides with the appointment on Thursday of a joint principal for the children’s hospital as well as B.C. Roy Polio Clinic for Crippled Children, situated nearby. Meena Basak, professor of paediatric medicine at the polio hospital, was handed over the order for her appointment at Writers’ Buildings.
“We have appointed a principal at the hospital on an ad hoc basis,” said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, even as a scurry was on to locate the new appointee. “Please find her and ask her to come to Writers’ immediately,” director of medical education C.R. Maity was overheard saying in his chamber.
Asked about his sudden visit to the hospital on Wednesday evening, Bhattacharjee said: “It’s nothing to gossip about. I had gone there for work and I saw the situation there.” There was no ‘official’ word about whether any further deaths had taken place at the state’s only referral hospital for children since Wednesday.
Health minister Suryakanta Mishra, too, was not in the mood to say much. Asked by reporters whether he would resign over the deaths, he replied: “No, I can’t make you happy.”
Earlier, the chief minister, after emerging from the first full-fledged meeting of the state population commission, had said the minister or the health secretary would brief the media on the developments at the hospital. But Mishra refused to field questions. “I have nothing to say. Do I have to brief you daily' Even if I don’t, you are still writing things in the papers,” he said.
Before leaving Writers’ for the day, the chief minister said a detailed report was being prepared on the baby deaths at B.C. Roy Hospital. “I have told them (health department officials) what I want in it, that’s why they are taking time. I will not say anything (about the report) now, otherwise it will become biased.”
The report, that will probe whether the deaths could have been prevented, will also be submitted to the National Human Rights Commission, sources said. Even as inputs for the report have been gathered by three senior officials of the health department (of the rank of assistant director of health services), director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said two important problems have emerged.
One was the referring of child patients from the districts to the hospital in cases where adequate treatment could have been given by the divisional or district (sadar) hospitals. “This puts enormous pressure on city hospitals, including B.C. Roy Hospital,” said Chatterjee. Overcrowding in the wards leads to a greater possibility of cross-infection, he added.
The second problem was the communication gap between health personnel at the hospital and the patients and their relatives. “Communication is not good with the patients, which often leads to misunderstandings and problems that can flare up,” Chatterjee.
The Infectious Diseases (ID) Hospital at Beleghata will also get a principal, Chatterjee said. Both hospitals offer post-graduate courses “and should have had principals”, said health secretary Asim Barman.
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