The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Doctors reject slur for SSKM death

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has demanded an “impartial inquiry” into the circumstances leading to the death of Susmita Biswas at SSKM Hospital and more infrastructure at state-run hospitals.

Susmita died after nine hours of waiting in the emergency wing of the hospital, forcing the state government to initiate a probe culminating in the transfer of four doctors, including the surgeon superintendent and the deputy superintendent.

Immediately after the announcement of the “punishment” in the form of transfers, the government was severely criticised by the anti-left parties for the “mild admonition”. Others, like the state branch of the IMA and the pro-left Association of Health Service Doctors (AHSD), requested the government to waive the punishment.

However, with the government in no mood to listen to their demands, the IMA has decided to write to the chief minister for an immediate reconsideration of his decision, keeping in mind that the top five city hospitals, including SSKM, lack infrastructure.

“We have noticed that the government has made no bones about trying to portray the death of Susmita and many others in the recent past as abject failure on the part of doctors. This is not correct at all. It is a collective failure on the part of the government, as no infrastructure exists in government hospitals,” said IMA state secretary Moloy Patra on Wednesday.

In the letter to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the IMA has highlighted how the lack of beds, equipment, doctors, para-medical staff and even life-saving medicines were plaguing healthcare. Patra also said doctors in state-run hospitals are feeling insecure, in the wake of the horror runs in government hospitals.

To drive home his point, Patra said Susmita’s life might have been saved had the trolley on which she lay had wheels. Since it had no wheels, a taxi was hired and Susmita transferred into the cab. “Several precious seconds were lost, which compounded the problem,” Patra added. Moreover, the hospital had only one oxygen mask and it had to be ripped off Susmita’s face.

The IMA has also demanded an increase in the number of beds in government hospitals. “It seems the government is more concerned about increasing medical seats rather than beds in hospitals,” Patra added.

AHSD general secretary Prodyut Sur said the government should find out whether the doctors alone were at fault. “We have been clamouring for more infrastructure in hospitals for a long time now,” Sur added.

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