The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Space-jam death at hospital
- Patient spends night under SSKM tree, given empty oxygen cylinder

Lack of facilities in one, lack of space in the other. Confronted by two faces of the healthcare horror in Bengal, an unwanted patient died on Sunday morning, after spending the night under a tree on the premises of the state’s apex teaching hospital, and after an “empty oxygen cylinder” was used to try and resuscitate him.

Badal Chakraborty, 25, suffering from renal problems, was referred to SSKM Hospital by Bankura Sammilani Medical College and Hospital. On Saturday, he was refused admission at SSKM as the hospital tried in vain, for around 10 hours, to accommodate the patient, either on a bed or on the floor of the emergency, renal, cardiology or nephrology departments.

The patient, from Garbeta, in West Midnapore, was told to try his luck at Sambhunath Pandit Hospital, but he chose to stay on at SSKM — under a tree — in the hope that he would finally be admitted there. That he was, around 8.30 am on Sunday, when his condition deteriorated. But the oxygen cylinder — that arrived after a half-hour wait for the family to book a ticket for emergency treatment — proved to be empty. Chakraborty died at 9.25 am.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee rubbished all accusations of medical negligence. “They are baseless allegations, levelled after almost every hospital death,” he said.

But why wasn’t the “referral protocol” (in which the referring hospital asks the referred hospital to keep a bed ready) followed either by the Bankura hospital or by SSKM'

“Ideally, the protocol should have been followed… This lapse won’t recur,” said SSKM superintendent Santanu Tripathi.

Also, the government has recently ordered the formation of ‘observatory wards’ in all hospital emergency sections, in order to admit all critical patients for at least 24 hours, before deciding on a course of action. There was no such provision for Chakraborty on Saturday.

The Trinamul Congress was quick to blame the hospital authorities and the “empty” oxygen cylinder for the death. But the bereaved family had an allegation against the protesters as well — it had decided to stay put at SSKM on Trinamul assurances of a bed at the hospital. Party leader Madan Mitra denied the allegation: “It’s true that the family contacted me, but I only referred them to the superintendent.”

Though health services director Chatterjee insisted that the hospital wasn’t guilty of “any” wrongdoing, the government has ordered a probe into the death of Badal Chakraborty.

nAdmit bar after refusal ban, Page 19

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