| Shaw in the hospital corridor. Picture by Aranya Sen
4Lakshman Shaw was admitted to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital with a fractured leg and discharged on July 16, 2002
4Tapeswar Singh was discharged from the same hospital on January 23, 1998
4Bina Rani Pal was admitted at R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital in June 2001, and subsequently discharged…
Shaw, Singh and Pal, however, continue to stay at the hospitals from where they were “discharged” months, or even years, ago. They have several others for company, bound by the agony of abandonment.
According to the state health department, the number of such former-patients-but-still-boarders in the city’s state-run hospitals is close to a hundred. Medical College alone has 15 such patients, say officials.
Take the case of Shaw. The 65-year-old man, who came from Bihar, lived at the Shalimar coal depot and was admitted in June 2002 by his daughter in Naihati. His fractured leg healed in a month but his daughter did not turn up to take him back.
Shaw, who sleeps in the decrepit corridor on a hospital-given mat and survives on hospital-served meals, is stoical about his ordeal: “My daughter cannot afford to take me back, as my son-in-law lost his job and they depend on a lone tea-stall. How can they feed an additional mouth'”
Gita Sil used to work as a domestic help with a Jorasanko family. But the day she broke a leg and was admitted to the orthopaedic department of Medical College, the family dumped her. She has no one she can call her own and her only companions are the cats in the hospital corridors.
Bina Rani Pal, in her sixties, was a resident of Raja Dinendra Street, in Maniktala. “Although she was admitted for some ailment in June 2001, she has stayed on, as no one came to take her,” said Bimal Das, a staff of R.G. Kar’s social welfare wing.
“We have written at least six times to the families of these patients in the past six years, but there has not been a single reply,” said social welfare officer of Medical College Pranab Mukherjee. “In most cases, the patients’ relatives register false addresses, so that it becomes impossible for us to trace them.”
Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said: “This is becoming a real headache for us. We have to do something to ease the pressure on the hospitals by finding another place where we can keep these unfortunate people abandoned by their families.”
Medical College superintendent K.K. Adhikari, while stating that the health department had taken up the matter in all seriousness, lamented the “tremendous pressure” on the infrastructure because of the “rogue” families. “We have to draw up fresh plans for patients who are not taken back home despite pressure from the hospital,” said Adhikari.