A cat roaming a congested maternity ward of RG Kar hospital scratched a newborn thrice in a matter of seconds on Thursday, leaving the authorities scratching their heads over the infestation of feral felines in the state-run institution.
The infant girl had to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and given an immunoglobulin anti-rabies injection.
Doctors declared her out of danger after medication and observation. “Mother and daughter are doing well and will be discharged on Friday. The baby would have to be brought to the hospital four more times for the remaining doses of the medicine,” said a senior hospital official.
A clowder of at least 150 cats roam around in the hospital’s wards and the authorities said tackling the menace was beyond them.
“We have tried to get rid of them several times, mostly through NGOs dealing with animals. The NGOs had given up after looking at the situation on the ground,” said Suddhadhan Batabyal, the principal of RG Kar Medical College and Hospital.
He said an NGO had promised to catch and cage the cats if they were paid Rs 1 lakh a month to feed the captured animals.
Another NGO caught some cats and released them far way from the hospital, but they somehow found their way back to the hospital.
“We don’t know how to tackle this problem. We tried to get our Group D staff members to trap the cats, offering Rs 100 per animal. That didn’t work either because the cornered cats become extremely ferocious,” Batabyal said.
Stray animals are a common sight in Calcutta’s government hospitals. There have been instances of rats and ants nibbling at patients. (See chart)
Thursday’s incident is an addition to the list. Sabera Biwi, the 24-year-old wife of Ibrahim Mollah, said one of the many cats in the gynaecology ward made an unprovoked attack around 8.30am on her baby born of Tuesday.
“The cat pounced on my daughter when I had put her on the floor after nursing her. It scratched her face, chest and back. Blood oozed from the wounds and she started wailing in pain,” she said.
Husband Mollah, a 25-year-old driver from New Town in Rajarhat, said their child was immediately taken to the NICU.
Doctors said the cat had dug its claws deep into the two-day-old baby’s soft skin, which were category two wounds requiring ant-rabies injections.
Had the wounds been skin- deep, called category one in this case, they would not have administered the injection.
Mother and child had been staying on the floor of the congested ward because no seat was available at the 240-bed gynaecology department. Even on the floor, a 6ftx5ft area was shared by three sets of mothers and infants.
“Cats are everywhere. One jumped over Baisakhi’s (wife) feet when she was having lunch on Wednesday,” said Saroj Baidya, whose daughter was born on Sunday.
RATS AND ANTS
July 2011: a rat had bit a 63-year-old patient’s toes at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital
April 2008: a rat nibbled away a newborn’s left eye and part of her left cheek. The girl died. The hospital said the infant was dead and the rat attack happened at the morgue
November 2005: black ants nibbled at an eye of Gouri Rani Chakrabarty at Sambhunath Pandit hospital. The patient died of diabetic coma