The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spit-n-shine for Sinha, squalor within

The freshly-painted façade of B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children may please Shatrughan Sinha on Saturday, but it will be a very different tale if he cares to tour the wards. State health department officials accompanying the Union health minister may have a lot to answer for if Sinha decides to scratch below the hastily-touched-up surface of the hospital, where baby deaths due to lack of basic medical care came to the fore this September. Last-minute crisis-management measures are on, with a fresh coat of paint being applied to some wards and patients being shifted out of overcrowded wards that have two babies, and two mothers, in one bed.

Hospital officials say they are keeping their fingers crossed that the health minister will head straight for the pandal erected on the hospital playground, reportedly at a cost of Rs 3 lakh. But if Sinha does take a little bit of interest in the hospital, he will have a lot of things to ask, they admit.

lSinha will be impressed by the remarkable improvement in record-keeping at the hospital; four computers have been installed (one in the social welfare office on the ground floor and the others on the first and second floors) but the hospital has not been able to invest in an ultra-sonography machine that health officials say is much more important than data-tabulating computers

lAlso missing from the state’s only referral paediatric hospital’s inventory are a CT scan machine, a neo-natal ICU and a paediatric ICU. The hospital still has only one ECG machine (for 200-plus patients) and is sending patients to small diagnostic centres for any pathological and microbiological tests that are “too complicated” (this list would include the essential electrolyte test, the thyroid-function test and the culture-sensitivity tests)

lAlso in cold storage is chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s promise to increase the number of beds by transferring the surgery wing to the nearby B.C. Roy Polio Hospital. The only paediatric hospital, which gets patients from all over the state, is having to make do with 175 medicine-ward beds and 75 surgery-ward beds more than two months after the government admitted that the hospital was under “tremendous patient pressure”

lFood supply being handed over to private agencies has led to a “marked fall” in the quality and quantity of food, say patients and physicians. “We used to recommend more food for the malnourished children,” a doctor said. “This has stopped, as the agency is not answerable to us any more.” The watertight division – with an eight-year-and-one-month-old child being given double the food than a child seven years and 11 months old – “defies all logic”, admit officials

lThere has been a sudden fall in the number of indoor patients and daily admissions, since the lid was blown off the baby deaths. Has the health of children in Bengal suddenly improved post-September 1 or is the state’s only paediatric referral hospital refusing patients'

Will Shotgun Sinha fire any of these questions'

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