The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bedlam over SARS beds
- Hospital doctors debate on wards to be emptied for accommodation

For Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government vexed by the virus, Wednesday provided a welcome breather, with no new SARS victim or suspect surfacing.

SARS patients Asitabha Purakayastha and Radheyshyam Gupta, too, spent a “normal” day at the Beleghata Infectious Diseases Hospital, said officials at Writers’ Buildings. “While Purakayastha spent time reading newspapers and books, Gupta was walking about the ward,” was the official word on the virus victims.

But there was no steering clear of medical controversy, as a turf-tussle broke out between doctors at the Beleghata hospital over which wards should be emptied to accommodate 200 more beds for potential SARS patients. And at another end of town, reports from the airport reiterated how asthma was enough to spark a SARS scare.

Wednesday at Writers’ started with the government setting up a committee — comprising director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee, director of medical education C.R. Maity, former School of Tropical Medicine director Manish Pradhan and National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases director S.K. Bhattacharya — to evolve guidelines on the discharge of SARS patients following WHO protocol. The guideline is expected to be tabled on Thursday, health secretary Asim Barman said.

The meeting also decided that a team of six medical officers would be sent to the airport on Thursday to join the existing team of doctors screening passengers at the domestic terminal.

But the moot point regarding distribution of 300 beds for SARS suspects failed to find a consensus. A hundred beds have already been allotted but there was bedlam over the other beds, officials told Metro.

The original plans involved shifting IB-II (for male diarrhoea-afflicted patients) to GB (General Block)VI and keeping some SARS cases there. But doctors attached to GB VI refused. “SARS cases will not be transferred to a block for diarrhoea patients,” they said.

But with the third floor being occupied by staff members and the first floor housing a permanent virology wing, there were no solutions in sight.

Officials, meanwhile, visited the Purakayasthas of Madhyamgram and the Guptas of Tangra to “instil a sense of security”. But the airport remained jittery with a passenger’s continued coughing in the domestic visitors’ lounge sending alarm bells ringing, till he was found to be suffering from asthma.

Wednesday also found director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee preparing to leave for Delhi to attend a meeting called by the Union health secretariat on May Day afternoon to discuss “the modalities of handling SARS cases all over the country”.

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