BENGAL’S HEALTH, APATHY & CORRUPTION Hounded, Surjya cuts short hospital tour – Minister hauled up by relatives of dead newborn – just the tip of the iceberg of what really goes on under Bengal’s inept and corrupt Health System ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Malda, Nov. 23: A crowd protesting the death of a newborn at the Malda district hospital today hounded health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, all the time shouting at him about the pathetic condition of the health system and the hospitals in the state.
The minister had to dodge the protesters for one hour while they tried to block his way, alleging that indifference of the doctors and unhygienic condition of the labour room had killed the baby.
Enraged by the demonstration, Mishra cut short his “sudden unannounced visit” and beat a hasty retreat.
The health minister had walked into the 600-bed hospital around 9am along with health secretary Manabendranath Roy, district magistrate Pramal Kumar Samanta and chief medical officer of health of Malda Srikanta Roy. Hospital superintendent Himadri Kumar Anri was also with him when he toured the wards.
Only a few policemen were around when the protest was going on. The minister’s face-off with the crowd began at the gynaecology ward. Then on, they trailed him around the hospital.
“Whatever you are doing is not right. If you have any allegations against the hospital, give it to us in writing,” an uncomfortable Mishra told the crowd. At one point, unaware of the hospital superintendent tugging at his arm, he turned around to Sheila Topdar, the grandmother of the newborn who died, accusing her of manhandling him (see picture sequence). While Topdar denied the charges, Mishra threatened to call police.
With the shouting and badgering continuing, Mishra abruptly cut short the hospital tour and left.
Topdar said her daughter Priya Roy was admitted to hospital yesterday and was told by doctors that she should be taken to a nursing home, if they wanted a Caesarean section. “She was writhing in pain. We asked the doctor if she needed a Caesarean section. The doctor replied that for a Caesarean section we would have to take her to a nursing home. This morning we were told that the baby was still born,” she said.
The woman alleged that all the while they were discussing her daughter’s pregnancy, Dr Sudhir Ranjan Sarkar, who was attending to Priya, had not told the family that she was carrying a dead baby. “The baby suffocated because they did not do a Caesarean. Moreover, the condition in the labour room is most unhygienic. I had asked the minister to visit the labour room but he did not,” she said.
Reacting to Topdar’s charges in front of the minister, hospital superintendent Anri said it was difficult for him to say offhand if the family had been told to take the expectant mother to a nursing home for Caesarean section. “Now that this incident has happened, there will be many sorts of allegations. I will have to find out if the charges are true. An inquiry has to be conducted.”
But Priya’s husband Bappa Roy shouted at Mishra: “Your doctors and nurses do not take proper care of expectant mothers. The doctors take their jobs lightly and misbehave with us. This is not the first time that a baby has died here after birth.”
Later, the minister, who had come to Malda for a review meeting with health officials of north Bengal, said he had ordered an inquiry. “I have asked the chief medical officer of health and the hospital superintendent to lead a four-member team to probe into the baby death. They will probe the circumstances that led to the death. If anyone is found guilty, steps will be taken.”
That the health minister had to face an angry protest from around 60 people has come as a major embarrassment for the district police which had no inkling about the demonstration. Additional police superintendent Kalyan Mukherjee, however, said an adequate force had been deployed at the hospital. “Relatives of a mother who had lost her baby met the minister and expressed their grievances before him,” he said.
The Congress karmadhakshya in charge of health in the zilla parishad, Safizuddin Ahmed, alleged the district hospital was run in a slip-shod manner.
“There are frequent demonstrations by relatives of patients alleging medical neglect. We are not told about them at the meetings. The doctors are irregular in attending to their duties. But today they were all present as they knew that the minister was visiting,” said Ahmed, a member of the district health and patient welfare committee.
A doctor at the district hospital said the staff members were always under pressure. “The number of doctors here is far less than the sanctioned strength. Against the 72 sanctioned posts, there are only 46 doctors. Of them, seven are on contract,” he said.