Health boss casts doubt on probe

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By OUR BUREAU in Calcutta
  • Published 19.10.03

Calcutta, Oct. 19: This is an inquiry with a difference.

The three-member team formed to probe the circumstances leading to Susmita Biswas’ death at SSKM Hospital on Friday has failed to inspire even the medical head of the state health department, not to speak of the victim’s family. “The SSKM incident has shattered our faith in the system we manage and defend,” director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti said.

“If the need arose, we could have convinced ourselves that the system was not to blame for the incident at Medical College and Hospital as there were so many ifs and buts,” he said, referring to the death of six-month-old Shabana Parveen. “But how do we condone an administration that cannot show the minimum empathy for a dying human being?” Maiti asked.

Members of Susmita’s family were asking themselves similar questions, 48 hours after she died following the hospital’s reluctance to admit her for an emergency transfusion of blood.

At the Baguiati residence and locality where Susmita lived, there was no faith in the probe that would be conducted by doctors whose colleagues and subordinates are the guilty.

“We have lost our daughter to a system that we found to be unbelievably cruel,” Susmita’s father, Samir Biswas, said.

“How can we have faith in a probe that is conducted by the same system?” he asked.

The panel set up by the hospital authorities consists of deputy superintendent Tushar Kanti Biswas, hospital secretary A.K. Samanta and medicine department physician Alokendu Ghosh.

“It is natural for the bereaved family not to have any faith in this system any more,” Maiti admitted, adding that such probes instituted by the “guilty” hospitals did not have any credibility.

“I will myself go to SSKM the first thing on Monday afternoon to take in the situation myself,” Maiti said. “The first phase of my investigation is already over and I just need to go over to the hospital to check things.”

What about the panel set up by the hospital to probe Susmita’s death? “Let it do its own work,” Maiti responded. “I will check the progress of the three-member committee and — if at any point of time — I am dissatisfied with its work, I will rework its composition,” he added.

The state health department, he said, was “frustrated” with the functioning of hospitals.

Maiti’s colleagues, refusing to be quoted, admitted that the SSKM fiasco could not have come at a more inopportune moment for the government. “This looks like a government that is lurching from one misadventure to another in the health sector,” one of them said.

“You could say so many things to shrug off your guilt in Shabana’s case but how do you explain something that has occurred to a middle-class family conversant with their daughter’s ailments?” asked a health official.

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