The Telegraph
Friday , February 17 , 2017

Doctors in dread of next mob attack 

- But I will be back in the OT tomorrow

Jan. 16: The mob came looking for the doctor who was to operate on Saika Parveen on Tuesday night. The surgery did not happen - Saika, 16, died before she could be prepped for the procedure. But no explanation would stand to reason in front of a mob that had already pronounced consultant gastrointestinal surgeon Sumit Gulati guilty of medical negligence.

Unable to find him at CMRI, the vandals smashed glass doors, yanked off computer cables, damaged the monitors and terrorised patients and their relatives who had gathered in the lobby.

A day after the mayhem, Gulati talked about worrying for his family's safety. About being beseeched by his loved ones not to go to CMRI lest the mob turn up again. About skipping two "simple surgeries" scheduled for Wednesday because he "did not feel up to it". About how he still went to work today because he did not want to live in fear.

Gulati, who had reached CMRI around midnight on Tuesday after being informed of his patient's condition, recounts to Metro how trying to save someone's life has become a risk in itself.


The closed main gate to CMRI bears signs saying that entry is through BM Birla Heart Research Centre

Manindranath Chakraborty, 81, who has lung disease, and wife Sandhya, 73, who suffers from osteoporosis, had a tough time walking a long, uneven stretch through BM Birla Heart Research Centre to reach the outpatient department of CMRI and back on Thursday, a day after a mob went on the rampage, ransacking the hospital following a patient’s death 

The missing glass panes on the two doors to the CMRI lobby; (below) a police 
contingent at CMRI. Pictures by Anup Bhattacharya

The way things are moving in Calcutta, doctors will start feeling jittery before attending to critical patients, and nothing can be worse than that. Yesterday, I wondered for a while if I should have thought of the operation at all.

I had decided to operate on the girl because there was a glimmer of hope that she might survive. The surgery (to repair an intestinal perforation) had to be done quickly, which is why I rushed from home (to CMRI) in the middle of the night. Had the patient been an elderly person, I would not even have thought of surgery.

I have been feeling nervous since the incident yesterday. When you see such anger among people, when you seen them ransacking your place of work because of a surgery that you had thought of, this is what is bound to happen.

I was shocked at the behaviour of the girl’s immediate family after her death, because I had personally explained to her father (Sheikh Kamal) in Hindi how critical her condition was. ‘Abhi operation karen to kuchh chance hai ki bacha payen. Operation nahin kiya to 100 per cent mar jayegi (If the operation is done now there is some chance of saving her. If we don’t attempt it, she will die 100 per cent)’ — these were my exact words.

She had virtually no pulse when the family brought her to our hospital after almost no treatment in the nursing home where she had been kept for four days. Her condition improved somewhat and we saw that as an opportunity to schedule the surgery. But before we could start the surgery, her condition deteriorated again.

She did not get better with fluids and medication, so we moved her back to the intensive care unit. This probably led the family to believe that something went wrong inside the operating theatre.

I had two surgeries lined up on Wednesday. I did not feel up to it, so I convinced the patients’ families that someone else would do the surgeries. 

It was unnerving to see all that carnage going on downstairs on Wednesday and I just did not feel confident enough to get back to doing what I do routinely. These were simple laparoscopic gallstone surgeries, not the critical transplants that I have been part of in Delhi and Gurgaon. But still I was not in the right frame of mind to go ahead with the surgeries.

Obviously, your family gets worried too (when something like the mob attack happens). My wife had heard about the mob demanding that I should be turned over to them. She feared for my life and did not want me to come to the hospital today. But I have patients admitted here (at CMRI) and I wanted to see how they were doing; so I stepped out. 

I am extremely sad (about what has happened), but many of my patients have been calling and messaging to ask after me.

I may be feeling down but, yes, I will be back in the operating theatre tomorrow.

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