The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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At SSKM, a night spent under a tree

Calcutta, Oct. 29: A truck driver whose legs were paralysed after a fall and who received several stitches on his head spent 24 hours under a tree outside SSKM Hospital’s emergency after being refused admission there and at two other hospitals.

Although no hospital can refuse an emergency case, the state’s premier state-run hospital told the relatives of 47-year-old Bishun Deb Sahani that there was no space for him.

The SSKM authorities finally admitted the resident of Katwa, Burdwan, this afternoon — in a bed that had no fan overhead and on which water from the toilet upstairs kept dripping from the roof.

On October 21, the day of Kali Puja, Bishun had driven a rice-laden lorry to Habra in North 24-Parganas. While unloading the bags with his helper, he slipped and fell from the vehicle, suffering serious injuries in his spine and head.

After some primary treatment at the Habra sub-divisional hospital and then at Katwa, Bishun was admitted to Burdwan Medical College and Hospital.

“He was there for a week, virtually without treatment,” alleged his son Sanjit.

On Friday, the hospital authorities gave an X-ray report that revealed he had suffered “traumatic paraplegia in dorso-lumbar spine” — a spinal cord injury that leads to the paralysis of legs, urinary bladder and bowels.

“This is a very serious injury and needs immediate intervention. In some cases, when the spinal cord is not totally damaged but is only functionally affected, it can be revived with immediate surgical intervention. But if there is delay, there is no recovery,” said R.P. Sengupta, neurosurgeon and managing director of National Neurosciences Centre, Calcutta.

For Bishun, the wait has already been too long.

Referred to the neurosurgery or orthopaedics department of any city hospital equipped to deal with the case, he was brought to SSKM at 4.10 pm yesterday.

“At the emergency, doctors said they could not admit him as neither any bed nor space on the floor was available,” said his wife Shanti. “We pleaded with the doctors to admit him but they did not pay any heed,” she alleged.

Throughout the night, Bishun lay under the tree, writhing in pain. “I cannot sit because of the injury. The pain is unbearable. I am too sick to eat and my head is continuously throbbing with pain,” said Bishun, speaking with difficulty.

This morning, his family members and volunteers of a social welfare organisation, Diganta, went to the Nil Ratan Sircar and Shambhunath Pandit hospitals.

“Both hospitals turned us away. At NRS, they said there was no bed and at Shambhunath, no facility,” said Utpal Roy of the NGO.

Around 3 pm today, the doctor on duty at the SSKM emergency told the Sahanis that an extra bed was being placed in the Curzon Ward to accommodate Bishun. “The bed had no fan over it and water was leaking from the roof. But we had no choice,” said Shanti.

“There is an acute shortage of space in the neurosurgery ward. Even the floor is occupied,” a doctor said.

“In these cases, a patient is admitted for a long period and so a bed is occupied for a long time. We are flooded with referred cases and the situation becomes really difficult for us. We would like to serve all patients, but it is not always possible,” said Jayasree Mitra Ghosh, the director of medical education.

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