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Deaths bare gaps in healthcare in West Bengal

Covid skills have failed to yield results, says public health expert

Sanjay Mandal And Subhajoy Roy | Published 07.03.23, 07:00 AM
Representational image.

Representational image.

File picture

The spurt in viral respiratory disease in West Bengal that has killed several children in the past few weeks has bared the state’s inability to deliver healthcare at the grassroots level, said a public health expert.

The expert also blamed doctors in the districts, who are reluctant to take additional workload, for the deaths.


The public health expert, who was involved in West Bengal’s Covid management, said the large number of referrals of sick children from districts to Kolkata showed the healthcare preparedness achieved during the pandemic has failed to provide much result.

“A section of doctors has been failing to deliver healthcare. That and panic among a section of parents are largely responsible for the current spate in referrals to hospitals in the city,” said the expert.

“Many of these children who are being referred from government hospitals in districts to Kolkata initially does not need ventilator support.”

According to the expert, during the Covid pandemic, doctors attached to healthcare facilities in districts were trained in dealing with respiratory disease emergencies.

“Just before the Omicron-driven third wave in early 2022, even paediatricians were trained in respiratory distress emergencies because there was an apprehension that children would be affected,” said the expert. “But now it seems the training has not yielded the desired result.”

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said the condition of patients being referred to hospitals in Kolkata from districts was turning critical while they are travelling several hours to the city.

The health department had issued advisories to district hospitals not to refer sick children unless absolutely necessary.

A senior official of the state health department said they were still receiving reports of children being referred to Kolkata hospitals unnecessarily.

“The number is less compared to the referrals a week before, but it’s still happening. It is essentially a human resource problem. Doctors are often reluctant to take additional load,” said the official.

Another official said one reason why children were being brought to Kolkata’s government hospitals from districts was lack of adequate facilities in district hospitals.

Several of the children who died at the Dr BC Roy Post Graduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences over the last few days were from North 24-Parganas.

“There are two medical colleges in the district. Though both of them are supposed to be tertiary care hospitals, the facilities available in the paediatric units in those hospitals are inferior to the facilities in a tertiary care hospital in Kolkata. The hospitals in the district do not have a paediatric intensive care unit,” the official said.

“We are trying to put together a temporary PICU with ventilators obtained during Covid in the two medical colleges. But there are only a few paediatricians there,” the official said.

Most sub-divisional hospitals or state general hospitals do not have paediatric units, which is why many patients from districts near Kolkata are being brought to hospitals in the city.

Last updated on 07.03.23, 07:21 AM

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