The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Death traps in hospitals

Calcutta, Dec. 19: Within hours of the death of Menoka Das at SSKM Hospital, health officials went into a huddle. Their mission: to find out the state of the state-run hospitals.

And the truth that emerged: horrifying, in one word.

“The incident at SSKM is extremely tragic and we have decided to take several steps to thwart similar accidents by declaring old buildings condemned and also conducting extensive repair work wherever necessary,” director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee told The Telegraph.

The department has asked the PWD to speed up the review of all old hospital buildings and submit a detailed report, he added. Several buildings in the city’s government-run hospitals pose danger to the lives of patients, his colleagues said, laying an accusing finger at the PWD.

Last evening’s accident at SSKM is the second such at a hospital in the 25 years of Left Front rule. In 1981, a physiology department student died after a chunk from a wall at the R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital fell on her head.

Though several mishaps have been reported from government hospitals after that, Das’ was the only one to end in death, officials said.

Though SSKM has forced itself into a not-so-happy limelight, the situation is the worst at R.G. Kar. It has the largest number of buildings condemned by the PWD — three now after five have been put to the hammer.

The health department has so far ignored the warnings of an immediate mishap in two buildings at R.G. Kar. One of them used to be the hostel for junior doctors and the other was the old surgical building. The operation theatre in the building has been abandoned.

“The authorities have not only ignored repeated warnings from the PWD but also allowed a staff canteen to thrive inside. The place is a death trap,” said a senior hospital official.

Recently, the PWD apprised health about the state of affairs and provided an estimate for razing old buildings and constructing new ones. “It seems the government has no funds to spare for R.G. Kar. Someone will have to die again,” said doctor and Indian Medical Association functionary K.K. Banik.

The Chunilal Seal Dispensary building in Medical College and Hospital is another death trap. Built on 10-cottah of prime land, it housed the radiotherapy wing. The building has turned into an anti-social den, with police flushing out criminals from time to time.

There are two more condemned buildings there.

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