The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bound to bed, patient breaks free
- SSKM runaway back after chief’s baptism by fire

Calcutta, Oct. 24: Chained to his bed and asked to relieve himself there, Asis Jana fled disaster-prone SSKM Hospital early this morning, jolting the new superintendent on his first day in office.

Jana, a pancreatitis patient, did not prolong the agony of a beleaguered health administration, debilitated by a disaster a day. He called up his relatives at Basanti in South 24-Parganas, pleaded with them that he had had enough of the hospital and then waited on the road.

They arrived and took him back to the hospital, claimed to be the best run by the authorities, to be greeted by a huge sigh of relief from Santanu Tripathi, who took charge as SSKM superintendent this morning after its earlier chief was transferred yesterday as punishment for the death of college student Susmita Biswas without medical attention.

By the end of his day of debut, Tripathi was left pleading with the media not to “report wildly or vaguely”.

Jana was admitted to SSKM on October 21 with a severe disorder of the pancreas. First, his family fell victim to an organised racket that forces patients to employ general-duty attendants for a fee. Then, the attendant hired decided it was impossible for him to control the patient when he was in severe pain. So, he chained Jana’s hands to the bed.

Two of Jana’s relatives would stay back every night to help the attendant. It was the turn of Shankar Debnath and Paritosh Adhikari last night.

Jana woke up this morning to find Debnath had gone downstairs to the public toilet and Adhikari was not yet there. Jana too needed to go the toilet and told the attendant so.

The attendant replied that it was not possible to unchain him and he could relieve himself in bed if he wanted to. No bedpan would be possible either, the attendant added before going out for a smoke.

Jana lay there for a couple of minutes and then sunk his teeth into the chord tying him to the bed, somehow managing to extricate himself. He walked down and out of the gate as the guards slept in their seats.

Last Sunday, another patient, Santosh Hela, had disappeared from his bed at Howrah State General Hospital to turn up dead two days later next to a garbage dump.

Jana stopped on Loudon Street. There, he seated himself in front of a store whose owner came down a few minutes later to start his day’s work.

This person — Jana could not recall his name — was the first to spot that he was a hospital inmate. He called Jana in and asked him to phone his relatives.

Jana rang his nephew in Basanti, who raised some relatives living in Calcutta. They arrived on Loudon Street a few hours later and found Jana loitering in front of Belle Vue. His clothes — the green hospital bedsheet was tied around his waist — were soiled; Jana had not made it to a toilet.

Jana was brought back to SSKM where hospital staff were awaiting his return with anxiety because they knew more heads would roll if he did not.

He was taken to the same bed (no. 47) in Curzon Ward. “We waived all readmission formalities for him,” Tripathi said.

If this barely hid a sense of achievement, the hospital chief promised more. “I will check how a man just walked out through the gates in hospital clothes.”


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