West Bengal witnessing a spate of medical mishaps in recent times
“Is there a jinx on the State's medical facilities?” seems to be the question people of West Bengal are asking as the State is ravaged by cot deaths, acid swabs reportedly killing neonates and bruising their mothers, doctors going on wildcat strikes at hospitals and now the deaths of over 70 patients in a fire at the multi-speciality AMRI Hospitals.There has been a spurt in the number of children dying in government-run hospitals in the city, beginning during the previous government's rule and seeping into October this year.
Over a three-day period, 29 infants — most of them less than a month-old — died at the State-run B.C. Roy Hospital and in the district hospital at Bardhaman, raising doubts about the state of paediatric and neo-natal care at these facilities.
The authorities had said these incidents were unfortunate but not unusual as most of these children were brought to the hospital in a critically-ill condition with diseases such as jaundice, septicaemia and pneumonia.
Medical negligence was ruled out by a one-man committee set up to probe the incidents. However, the precariousness of the secondary and tertiary care in the State was borne out by the recent death of a newborn, allegedly as a result of a sweeper having used acid instead of spirit when cleaning the mother and child.
The victims' relatives have frequently given vent to their anxiety through attacks on doctors, who, on their part, have retaliated by launching wildcat strikes demanding security for themselves. Services have come to a halt at some of the main government hospitals.
The latest incidents of deaths by fire and suffocation at an upscale and speciality hospital in which the government also has a stake — AMRI is a joint-sector venture between the State government and two city industry groups — have raised the question of whether all these are signs of an endemic, deep-rooted systemic malaise.