The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Same script replayed, Susmita and after

Calcutta, Oct. 18: Barely 14 hours after Susmita Biswas bled to death, lying unattended in a corner of the emergency wing of SSKM hospital, the tale of neglect and apathy was replayed in the same department of the state’s premier hospital.

At 7.30 am yesterday, 20-year-old Susmita of Baguiati was brought to SSKM’s emergency department with debilitating blood disorder and breathing trouble. She lay there through the day, repeatedly refused admission and treatment by the doctors on duty. At 4.30 pm, while being shifted to the new emergency wing, she choked to death when her oxygen mask was ripped off apparently “on instructions from attending doctors”.

Today, a similar fate awaited two others — a sub-inspector from North Dinajpur and a cart-puller from South 24-Parganas — who arrived at the hospital’s emergency department early in the morning in a critical condition. They lay unattended throughout the day but managed to escape Susmita’s tragic end.

Birendra Nath Burman, a 52-year-old sub-inspector of West Bengal police, travelled 400 km from Hilly in North Dinajpur after he collapsed following a bout of blood diarrhoea. He was brought to the hospital at 6.30 this morning only to find that no one was ready to attend to him.

A few of his colleagues who had accompanied him ran from one doctor to another at the emergency department. But till about 4 pm, their queries met the same reply: “There is no space left to get anyone admitted.... You are wasting your time, the patient’s condition is serious, so get him admitted somewhere else.”

Even Burman’s colleagues’ pleas that he was a policeman did not cut any ice with the attending doctors.

Luckily for Burman, a visitor to the hospital noticed his plight and managed to find him a place at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital later in the evening.

“It is a horror story at the state government’s best hospital,” said Burman’s colleague D. Biswas.

A more harrowing experience was in store for daily-wage earner Raj Kumar from Budge Budge. The 28-year-old cart-puller, who had lost the faculty to move his limbs, lay in a paralysed stupor in the emergency ward’s corridor. “We arrived early in the morning, but till this evening no doctor has had the time to even check my son’s pulse,” said his mother Shibani.

Later during the night, Raj Kumar and his mother left the hospital. Nobody knows where they have gone.

Dismissing the cases as not “serious enough”, C.H. Sikdar, one of the attending doctors, said: “Given the shortage of beds, we have to prioritise.”

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