The Telegraph
Thursday , June 21 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Battery lodged in nose, kid told to wait for ENT doc

Balurghat June 20: A government hospital near Balurghat has been accused of dragging its feet in treating a toddler whose nasal passage was blocked by a wrist-watch battery, following which his family scampered and found help in a nearby medicine shop where the same hospital’s ENT specialist was seeing patients.

The doctor who treated the boy had permission to carry out private practice and was not in the wrong. But the alleged response of Gangarampur subdivisional hospital has raised questions about the way health care institutions react to emergencies.

The battery was extricated from two-and-a-half-year-old Abid’s nasal passage after nearly two hours of respiratory distress the child went through because the Gangarampur subdivisional hospital would not treat it as an emergency case.

The wrist watch battery got stuck in Abid’s nose while he was playing yesterday morning. From 10.30am to 11.10, the family tried to get the piece of metal out of Abid’s nasal passage, but could not. The boy complained of breathing difficulty and eventually started to shiver.

Father Mojaffar Mandal, who runs a hardware business in Gangarampur, mother Renuka and a neighbour then took Abid to the subdivisional hospital, about 45km from Balurghat town.

“We did not have much time as my son was shivering. He breathing problem kept getting worse. We rushed to the hospital. The doctor there told me that it was the case for an ENT specialist.”

The father said he requested the doctor to treat his son’s case as an emergency but they insisted that this was an ENT case. “I requested him then to book a call for the doctor specialised in ENT. Then another doctor named Tamal Roy told me that it was not possible to call the ENT specialist at that time. They told me to admit my baby.”

In most hospitals, emergency cases are treated immediately by doctors who are general physicians. In case a specialist doctor’s advice is required, the patient is admitted to a ward. Emergency care does not require a patient’s admission to a hospital.

Mojaffar said the hospital told him the ENT specialist was off-duty at that time and could not be called.

“But my son’s distress was scaring us. We did not wait there for the doctor and went to a medicine shop which is a stone’s throw from the hospital where the same ENT doctor was seeing patients.”

He took out the battery “and saved my son’s life”, Mojaffar said. “If we had waited there for the doctor to come and see my son, anything could have happened.”

Renuka, Abid’s mother, said: “It was very distressing when one of the doctors said straightaway that the ENT doctor could not be booked for a call even in an emergency. Is such behaviour part of medical ethics? We had money with us, so the life of our son was saved. If this case had happened to a poor person, what could he have done?”

The family today complained to the superintendent of the hospital, Sudip Das, about the harassment they went through yesterday. Das said as there was only one ENT doctor in the hospital it was impossible to call him up at all hours.

Asit Biswas, the health department spokesperson, said: “I have already learnt about the complaint. I have asked the superintendent to take care of the allegation and report me shortly.”