The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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For heart’s sake, go elsewhere
- Critical cardiac care equipment out of order at Medical College

About two months ago, a critically-ill heart patient admitted to the cardiology department of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) was referred to SSKM Hospital after a week’s treatment there. He required angiography, but for reasons not disclosed then, the procedure could not be carried out.

His relatives implored with the doctor in charge that the strain of transfer might prove too much for the patient. They had also heard that the CMCH’s cath lab, where angiographies and angiograms are carried out, was one of the best in the government sector here. The parleys carried on for almost two days. The patient’s condition deteriorated and he died.

What the patient’s relatives did not know was that the Rs 1.5-crore angiography machine at CMCH has been out of order for almost a year. So, cardiac patients were being turned away from one of the city’s most prestigious teaching hospitals, without spelling out why.

Joining the angiography machine on the ‘breakdown list’ were other vital equipment essential to carry out open-heart surgeries. The basic blood gas and electrolyte analyser in the cardio-thoracic department has been down for nearly a month and so, bypass patients too are either being referred to SSKM or not being admitted at all. Less-complicated interventions, like bronchoscopies and eusophagoscopies, continue to be carried out.

Open-heart operations for aortic and mitral valve replacement, congenital cardiac disorders, atrial or ventricular septal defects, pulmonary stenosis, among others, are not being carried out at either of the two OTs in the cardio-thoracic department. The reason: the Rs 4 lakh needed as annual maintenance charges for the blood gas analyser has not been paid since last year.

“The cath lab, set up by Dr B.N. Guha Roy 10 years ago, is facing a funds crunch,” admitted a senior doctor of the department. With the focus now firmly on health of healthcare, CMCH is finally going shopping for a new blood gas analyser. The funds have been drawn from the World Bank-financed Health Systems Development Project, meant for upgrading district hospitals. “We hope to re-start bypass and other surgeries soon,” said superintendent K.K. Adhikari.

Probe report and after

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee and director of medical education C.R. Maity on Monday spent the day at B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children, interrogating doctors and nurses on duty on the first two days of September, when 14 babies had died. Chatterjee and Maity will assist the three-member committee probing the deaths. Health secretary Asim Barman said at Writers’ Buildings that the findings would form part of the B.C. Roy Hospital probe report. “The panel will also recommend steps to prevent such deaths in future and to augment hospital infrastructure.”

During a meeting on Monday, it was decided that a paediatrician, a gynaecologist, an anaesthetist and supporting staff would be provided at the 94 rural hospitals in Bengal to lessen the burden on referral hospitals.

At Calcutta High Court, Justice Pinaki Ghosh, in an interim order, directed the state health department not to refuse patients seeking admission into government hospitals, while referring to a complaint arising out of B.C. Roy Hospital.

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