The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Neglect noose over doctors
- Hospital heads flashed punitive action alert

The death by medical negligence of a 17-year-old budding cricketer has opened the eyes of the government to the need for greater accountability in state-run hospitals.

Three days after Rajnis Patel died in the orthopaedics ward of SSKM Hospital, the government embarked upon a mission against medical negligence.

Showcasing the action against orthopaedic surgeon Dilip Majumdar as punitive precedence, director of medical education C.R. Maity said on Thursday that administrative heads, superintendents of hospitals and principals of medical colleges would also be held responsible for such acts of negligence in future.

The health department has directed all doctors in government hospitals to be “extremely careful” while dealing with difficult cases and never to allow post-graduate trainees to conduct surgeries without supervision from senior consultants.

The inquiry into Rajnis’ death, conducted by the three-member board at SSKM, revealed how post-graduate trainees had conducted a series of surgeries on the boy from Bhowanipore. Only on one occasion did Dilip Majumdar and colleague Michael Hira operate upon Rajnis in his four-month ordeal at the hospital.

The situation is similar in most government hospitals, where senior surgeons often leave the operation theatre to trainees.

“Our message to doctors in hospitals is simple: You must be sure of what you are doing and specialists must be consulted in case of any doubt. No lapse will be tolerated,” medical education director Maity told Metro.

To track all alleged negligence complaints, the state has asked hospitals to hold college council meetings at least once a month. “A government representative will be present at the meetings to keep us posted on the developments,” said C.R. Maity.

Thursday saw Ajit Maity, director of the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research, SSKM Hospital, meet state health secretary Asim Barman to discuss the modalities of the proposed meetings.

State health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra has activated a health department committee, comprising C.R. Maity, director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee and other senior officials, to “increase surprise inspections” at all government hospitals to check whether doctors are performing their duties.

In a bid to fight present pique with pages from the past, the government has announced that it will study how the government hospitals functioned 25 years ago. “This is to find out whether the allegations made by present-generation doctors, that they are overburdened, holds any water. We will find out how hospitals used to function then and what the patient-doctor ratio was like,” medical education director Maity said.

Back at SSKM, the three-member probe team, comprising P.K. Gupta, head of department (surgery), N.D. Chatterjee, head of department (orthopaedics) and deputy superintendent Tushar Ghosh, continued to examine documents and question nurses and doctors involved in the treatment of Rajnis.

The post-graduate trainees, who had operated on Rajnis, were reprimanded. “The trainees should have kept their seniors informed about the case. The investigation will ascertain the lapses on the part of the entire eight-member medical team that treated Rajnis,” said C.R. Maity.

Action against Dilip Majumdar has been welcomed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Association of Health Service Doctors (AHSD). “The fact that members of an internal probe team of SSKM Hospital could find fault with one of their colleagues is exemplary. This is definitely a positive sign from the government,” said former IMA president Subir Ganguly.

General secretary Prodyut Sur of AHSD said: “Anybody found guilty must be punished.”

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