The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Move to douse patient kin fury

Alarmed at reports of repeated incidents of violence in state-run hospitals, the government has decided to appoint “counsellors” to bridge the gap between harried doctors and aggrieved relatives of patients.

In the past few months, doctors and healthcare personnel in government hospitals have borne the brunt of a range of accusations — from refusal of admission of patients to administration of wrong dosage of drugs to infusion of expired blood.

One harrowing case led to another in the past three weeks. Twenty-year-old Susmita Biswas died at the emergency department of SSKM Hospital after lying unattended for over nine hours. Six-month-old Shabana Parveen died on the streets after she was allegedly refused admission to Medical College and Hospital. Another sordid scenario was the recovery of the body of a missing patient, Santosh Hela, near a garbage vat in Howrah General Hospital .

The prevailing medical mess has prompted the government to initiate a dialogue with the Indian Pharmaceutical Association (IPA), so that pharmacists can be chosen as counsellors in hospitals.

The job of these counsellors will be to monitor patients in the absence of doctors, and explain the line of treatment to patients and their relatives. The pharmacists will also take up the role of pacifying relatives in case anything goes wrong.

Prabhakar Chatterjee, director of health services, said on Saturday that the government has agreed to give pharmacists a much bigger role in city hospitals and the modalities of the arrangement were being worked out. “A similar scheme on an experimental basis has worked in Burdwan,” Chatterjee added.

As directed by the government, the IPA has recently submitted a feasibility report on the project. Some of the suggestions being considered by the government are:

2A consolidated effort by the healthcare team to shorten a patient’s stay in hospital. Unnecessary stay of patients in hospital has often led to trouble between doctors and patients

2Pharmacists be allowed to monitor patients showing adverse drug reaction in hospitals, mainly because “doctors are often busy and do not have time for a patient”

2Propagating unbiased information to all professionals and patients about healthcare. According to the IPA report, even doctors get confused by the biased information provided by some pharmaceutical manufacturers.

There are about 45-50 pharmacists in every government hospital, who are vastly under-utilised, despite their potential to lessen the government’s burden. It is only now that the government is seriously thinking of utilising them as an interface.

“It is good to know that the government has so much trust in pharmacists. A pharmacist can get a detailed feedback from doctors and keep relatives informed who, on most occasions, are left in the dark about the progress of the patient,” said Subhas Mondol, state secretary of the IPA.

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