The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ten hours of her battle against indifference

All that the doctors had to do was a simple blood transfusion; it would have saved the girl’s life. But even this they refused to do.

A day after the death of their daughter Susmita, who lay unattended for the better part of the day at SSKM Hospital’s emergency department on Friday, her parents, Samir and Kajol Biswas of Baguiati, are reliving every moment of neglect and apathy that claimed their daughter’s life.

They had reached SSKM Hospital at 7.30 am hoping to get some treatment for their daughter. At the outdoor wing of the medicine department, they waited, along with other patients, to get Susmita admitted for blood transfusion.

“Our family physician, a haematologist, had said her condition was serious and she should be given blood at the earliest as she was suffering from henox perfura, a blood disorder,” the father explained.

“Susmita felt weak but otherwise had no other complaints when we arrived. It needed a lot of coaxing on my part before the residential medical officer agreed to see her at around 9.30 am and referred her to N. Sarkar, the visiting physician,” Biswas recalled.

Sarkar conducted a thorough check-up on Susmita. Realising that a delay in treatment could prove fatal for the 20-year-old girl, he referred her to the emergency ward with advice of immediate admission. It was 11 am.

To Biswas’ utter dismay, even Sarkar’s reference did not carry weight and Susmita was refused. Helpless and miserable, Biswas raced back to Sarkar at around 1.15 pm. The visiting physician advised him to get a written statement from the doctors who would not admit her.

The doctors at the emergency ward refused to do so and asked him to get a written order from the surgeon superintendent to get Susmita admitted. After running around for more than 45 minutes, Biswas was informed that the superintendent would arrive at 5 pm.

“I knew time was running out. So I requested Tushar Kanti Ghosh, Chattopadhyay’s deputy, to do something. In response, he threw back the card at my face and said he could do nothing as there were no empty beds,” he alleged.

“When I returned by my daughter’s side it was 3.30 pm. She was breathing with difficulty. I panicked and pleaded with the doctors with folded hands to treat her. All that they had to do was to transfuse the two bottles of blood we were carrying. But our pleas fell on deaf ears,” the father recalled.

At 4.30 pm, as Susmita’s condition worsened and she started gasping for breath, blood oozed from her mouth. All the patients and their relatives at the ward now demanded in unison that the doctors attend to her. It was then that the doctors asked a ward boy to put Susmita on oxygen. By this time, Biswas contacted Chattopadhyay and got a written order for her admission.

The worse was still to come. Susmita was to be shifted to the new emergency ward barely 200 yards away but the trolley she was put on had no wheels. A cab was called in to carry her. “As soon as we put her in the taxi, the ward boy, Shankar Sau, came and ripped off the oxygen mask ‘as it belonged to the emergency ward’.”

This ended Susmita’s life.

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