Calcutta, Dec. 11: Three doctors were arrested today on charges of being responsible for the death of young Rajnis Patel last June at the government-run SSKM Hospital. One of the two others against whom police filed a chargesheet had secured bail in advance and the second was untraced.
This is the first time the government has taken such tough action against doctors in the spate of hospital scandals that have shamed the state’s healthcare system in recent days.
Calcutta police submitted the chargesheet at the Alipore sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s court in the morning and the arrests — of three postgraduate trainees — followed in the afternoon.
But the prime accused in the case, orthopaedic surgeon D.K. Majumdar who led the team that performed several botched-up surgeries on Patel, escaped arrest as he had obtained anticipatory bail. Majumdar had moved the bail plea on June 11, nine days after the last of the surgeries failed, leading to Patel’s death at the age of 19.
Till evening, the police could not find the only other government servant involved in the case, residential medical officer of SSKM Hospital S. Manna.
The three arrested today were the junior-most in the team — Saubhik Bardhan, Jayanta Mandal and Nirmalya Basu. But they, too, moved pleas for bail later in the day and secured it.
The arrests brought little joy to the Patel household in Bhowanipore. “All this cannot bring back my son,” father Manoj Patel said. “But we will be happy if they are ultimately punished and doctors learn a lesson.”
The move is being seen as a sign of the new tough approach of the Left Front government in handling errant doctors. Though the police set in motion the arrest proceedings after filing the chargesheet, officials said it is unlikely that they acted independently of the government.
The decision to arrest the doctors could not have been taken without approval from the “very top of the administration”, they added, explaining that the health department itself was divided on the issue.
Even yesterday, director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti claimed that action against the five was “only under contemplation”. “Let the police do what they want to do, the state health department is going to do its job in its own way,” Maiti had said.
Health secretary Asim Barman had, however, indicated that some strong steps could be expected.