The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vehicles take a walk
Punch on the chin for health services

When Chittaranjan Saha, daughter Suma and son-in-law Subrata touched down from Agartala on Monday afternoon, a nightmare awaited them in Calcutta, in the form of a state-supported strike.

Bismoy, Chittaranjan Saha's seven-month-old grandson, is suffering from a neurological problem causing accumulation of fluid inside the brain and needed immediate treatment.

'Doctors at Agartala have referred my grandson to Vellore and he needs immediate treatment,' said Saha, who had planned to take little Bismoy to SSKM Hospital before heading down South.

But even SSKM proved a hospital too far for the ailing boy, as the family was left stranded at the airport for hours. 'We cannot find any taxi. Private cars are demanding exorbitant amounts we cannot afford to pay,' cried Saha.

Chances are treatment would have eluded the seven-month-old even if he had been brought to a state-run hospital in the city on Monday.

With skeletal staff, few doctors and even fewer technicians, the state-run healthcare sector struggled to offer even basic medical services, as the state-backed transport strike crippled Calcutta.

At least seven surgical procedures across four major hospitals, including NRS and Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, were cancelled during the day. Even pathological services were hit hard.

In the private sector, most hospitals and nursing homes decided to cut down on the number of operating theatre procedures.

In both sectors, the turnout of patients at the outdoor departments was, predictably, far below normal.

'Since some of the technicians were absent today, we had to suspend work in a few departments,' said Dilip Kumar Jha, deputy superintendent, NRS Medical College and Hospital.

Sources said the dialysis unit of the hospital was shut down and at least three surgical procedures in the upper block of Fraser Ward had to be called off owing to the absence of anaesthetists.

At RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, a duty roster had been drawn up like 'any other bandh day', said superintendent Pradip Mitra.

'With nearly three-fourths of the Group-C and Group-D staff not on the premises, hospital services suffered,' added Mitra. At least three scheduled surgical procedures were reportedly postponed.

Shortage of laboratory staff held up pathological tests and delayed the delivery of reports at the Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital.

'Some operations had to be suspended, but all efforts were made to keep the emergency and the outdoor departments running,' said Mritunjay Mukherjee, hospital superintendent.

In south Calcutta, AMRI Hospitals in Dhakuria rationalised the number of surgical procedures so as to ensure there were no postponements.

At Wockhardt Hospitals, 'at least 80 per cent of business' was affected, since patients couldn't make it to the Day Care Centre, said general manager Rupali Basu.

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