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Covid curbs off, hospital hassles hound patients, families in Kolkata

Refusals and referrals at government healthcare centres; long waits to consult a doctor at private clinics are the daily dread for patients

Sanjay Mandal | Published 21.04.22, 06:25 AM
SSKM Hospital, Kolkata

SSKM Hospital, Kolkata

File picture

Hospital hassles are back following the withdrawal of most Covid curbs.

Refusals and referrals at government hospitals and long waits to consult a doctor at private hospitals and clinics are again the everyday dread for patients and their relatives.

The hospitals in Kolkata, government-run as well as private, had most non-Covid beds lying vacant during the pandemic. Only those in need of emergency medical care were seeking admission, officials of hospitals had said.

The footfall at outpatient departments, too, was unusually low.

With Covid cases having sharply gone down since the latest surge in January, the hospitals are again full of patients. And the old problems, which would routinely leave patients and their families hassled before the pandemic, have returned.

Shankar Adak, 58, a resident of Purba Bardhaman district, has been having chest pain since April 15. On Tuesday, family members brought him to SSKM Hospital as the pain intensified.

“At the Emergency ward, we were told to get an ECG done. After that they referred us to the cardiology department for admission. But there we were told no bed was vacant,” said the patient’s son, Milan.

“My father was referred back to Emergency, from where we were sent to the OPD. After standing for hours, he was referred to the Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital (CNMC),” said Milan. He was admitted to CNMC in the evening.

Rumpa Pal, 32, of Bongaon in North 24-Parganas district, around 80km northeast of Kolkata, has been diagnosed with a tumour. Husband Balaram had taken her to the Bangur Institute of Neurosciences a month back, where doctors advised surgery.

“I was told to visit the hospital after 15 days for my wife’s admission. I went but was told no bed was vacant,” said Balaram. He was back at the hospital on Tuesday to queue up for a bed. “We left home at 4am and reached the hospital at 8am so we could be among the first few in the queue,” said Balaram.

He submitted an application for admission. At 1.30pm, he was told no bed was available and to come back a week later.

An official in the state health department said the root of the problem was referrals from district hospitals to medical colleges in Kolkata.

“We have been trying for a long time to reduce such referrals. We are constantly monitoring referrals and it has now come down from 11 per cent to between 5 and 8 per cent,” he said. “As referrals come down, so will the pressure on government hospitals in Kolkata and refusals.”

A problem at private hospitals is the long wait to consult a doctor.

A Salt Lake resident last week took his 80-year-old father to a neurologist at a city hospital.

“The appointment was at 11am. We reached the hospital at 10.45am but the doctor arrived at 1.30pm. My father had to sit on a wheelchair the whole time. There was no apology from the doctor or hospital employees,” the man said.

The problem had reduced during the Covid pandemic.

The CEO of a private hospital said there were several reasons for the problem.

“There are surgeons who have surgeries and OPDs on the same day. During Covid, there were barely any surgeries. Also, doctors have to check on patients admitted under them and that takes time. All these cause delays,” the CEO said.

“Also, there are consultants who visit multiple hospitals on the same day. If they get delayed at one hospital, they are late at other hospitals, too.”

Another CEO said: “Hospitals give appointments based on schedules doctors have agreed upon. But the hospitals often can’t force a consultant to be at the OPD on time.”

Last updated on 21.04.22, 07:23 AM
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