The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Susmita dies as Shabana did
- State of Bengal’s healthcare: Ailing and on the mat

Calcutta, Oct. 17: Susmita Biswas died today after lying unattended for hours in a corridor of SSKM Hospital’s emergency ward, four days after six-month-old Shabana Parveen died without medical care.

The student of East Calcutta Girls’ College was brought to the hospital — among the better hospitals that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government runs and not far from Writers’ Buildings — at 7.30 am. Suffering from a debilitating blood disorder and breathing trouble, she was allegedly refused admission because there was no bed available in the general ward.

After Susmita’s condition started deteriorating last night and red spots appeared all over her body, the family physician had advised a shift to a city hospital. “We arrived early in the morning from our Baguiati residence and repeatedly pleaded with the doctors to treat her. But they turned a deaf ear. After a lot of persuasion, we placed her on a trolley,” said Samir Biswas, Susmita’s father.

“We were ready to donate blood but the doctors said she had to be admitted first. She was not even treated by the doctors in the emergency ward till 1.30 pm, when her condition grew worse and she had to be put on oxygen,” added mother Kajole.

Finally, around 4.30 pm — nine hours after the girl was rushed to the hospital — the doctors at SSKM decided to shift Susmita to the new emergency ward in the next building. But the trolley she was lying on had no wheels, so she would be taken in a taxi.

Susmita’s family said this is when the doctors committed a fatal error: they took off the oxygen mask, saying she would not need it for the short distance. As soon as the tubes were removed, Susmita died.

“I shall conduct an inquiry tomorrow as I was on leave today,” said hospital surgeon superintendent Debdwaipayan Chattopadhyay.

The inquiry will mean little to Samir and Kajole Biswas, who have lost their daughter to the health system administered by the Left Front government, just as the inquiry at Howrah State General Hospital means little to Ashraf and Naseema who lost Shabana to the same health system and a rally.

Baby Shabana died on Monday. The Howrah hospital where she was admitted first had sent her away to Medical College and Hospital, but could not spare an ambulance that just might have squeezed through the traffic snarl. “Daktarbabu ne bola ki bachchi ko taxi mein leke jao (The doctor told me to take the baby in a taxi),” Ashraf said.

Another patient, Mohammad Shakil, who was admitted yesterday with a deep gash on his head, was also referred to the Medical College and Hospital and was to leave at 3 pm today. Again, there was no ambulance. Finally, the Howrah Municipal Corporation sent one. Shakil left at 5 pm.

But superintendent H.K. Chanda felt the hospital did not have “any scope for improvement”. “The infrastructure is absolutely all right,” he said.

The health department has asked the Howrah hospital to explain why doctors allowed Shabana’s parents to leave on October 11; what attempt was made to control diarrhoea and convulsions; and why did doctors not mention septicaemia and meningitis in the reference slip.

But health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra’s deputy, Pratyush Mukherjee, has already fixed the blame: on Shabana’s parents’ “lack of consciousness”. As for the ordeal at the Medical College and Hospital, someone must be “making them” conjure up the details.

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