The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Patients’ dress code to prevent ward walkouts

Calcutta, Jan. 8: A day after 40-year-old Tapan Deyashi was found dead amid garbage on the RG Kar Medical College and Hospital premises, the government announced its decision to introduce a dress code for patients.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee today said the government was looking into ways to prevent patients from fleeing the hospital wards. “This (patients walking out of hospitals) is indeed beginning to emerge as a big problem for us. Therefore, we have decided to enforce a dress code for patients, so that they can be identified while loitering in the hospital and taken back to the ward in case of a situation like at RG Kar yesterday,” he said.

The proposal to provide patients dresses for hospital wear was mooted sometime back, but the enormity of the task — providing it to about 700-800 patients in each hospital — forced the health department to put off the programme.

However, with at least five patients going missing from hospitals in the city and its adjoining districts, the government has finally decided to give shape to the plan it has been toying with.

“The dress code is not all, we are planning to give earmarked dresses to the hospital employees as well,” said Chatterjee.

If everything works out well, the new dress code should be implemented in two months, health department officials said.

The government is also planning to ask psychiatrists in government hospitals to help patients overcome depression. “We have found that the patients trying to escape are mostly suffering from depression. Counselling might help,” said A. Biswas, the deputy superintendent of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.

The nurses and support staff at RG Kar Hospital were today pulled up for failing to prevent Deyashi from escaping from the medicine ward. Deyashi was reported missing around 7.30 am. He was found dead on a garbage vat two hours later.

The authorities have also asked the hospital employees and security personnel to be on the lookout for patients who might escape. “We have been asked to keep a close watch on patients who have a tendency to walk out,” said a senior doctor in the male surgery ward who requested anonymity.

Santosh Hela, a sweeper by profession, escaped from Howrah State General Hospital in October. His body was found near a garbage vat the next day. Three other patients escaped in the past three months from city hospitals — two from SSKM and one from M.R. Bangur.

In December, a 75-year-old patient suffering from chronic ailments walked out of Barasat Sadar Hospital. He had told nurses that he would like to go home and disappeared from the ward the next day. Similar incidents in other hospitals get brushed under the carpet if they do not lead to death.

“Patients who do not have the means to foot the bills also develop this tendency to escape,” said SSKM Hospital superintendent Santanu Tripathi. Swapan Mondol was one such patient. He fled the hospital in October with a substantial amount due.

“As ours is the only paying hospital, he knew that he had no other way,” Tripathi added.

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