The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Report diagnoses flu, doctors get the stick

Calcutta, June 21: The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government today decided to suspend two Murshidabad doctors after it was found that the mystery child deaths were caused by influenza.

The decision comes three days after the chief minister toured the district and promised action against errant doctors.

“We received the final report from Pune last night confirming that the deaths of children are simply due to influenza. It appears that a large number of children would not have died if doctors attending to them had taken adequate medical care,” health secretary Asim Barman said.

The National Institute of Virology at Pune had taken blood samples to analyse the virus that had caused the mystery fever. Though officials claimed that 22 children had died since the first week of June, unconfirmed reports put the toll at 70.

Hours after discussing the Pune report with health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra this morning, Barman said two health service doctors in Lalbag subdivision are being suspended for “medical negligence”. Lalbag reported many deaths.

“We have decided to suspend them after getting unsatisfactory replies to the show-cause notices earlier slapped on them. They could not satisfactorily explain the reasons behind the deaths of the hapless children.”

The child deaths have created an uproar in the CPM with Bhattacharjee hauling up the health minister for not “properly handling such a grave matter”.

Mishra, who also faced criticism at yesterday’s CPM secretariat meeting for being away from the city at the critical juncture, is likely to visit the affected areas next week. However, he was not available for comment.

Jyoti Basu today regretted the child deaths and said they could have been avoided if proper medical care was taken. He said the chief minister had acted “very responsibly by visiting the district when Surjya (health minister) was away in Tripura”.

A joint secretary from the department would visit the affected areas on Monday to probe the alleged negligence on the part of doctors and report to the government by Tuesday, Barman said.

Echoing Barman, health services director Prabhakar Chatterjee said from Burdwan negligence by doctors could not be ruled out. “Besides two doctors who have been suspended, we are looking for those who have gone on leave in such a crisis period.” he said.

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