Sunday, February 26, 2012

Empty beds, yet no room - Burns patient sits on RJ Kar floor for over a day SANJAY MANDAL

Empty beds, yet no room

- Burns patient sits on RJ Kar floor for over a day

Calcutta, Feb. 25: A patient with severe burns was made to lie on the floor in RG Kar Medical College Hospital for 24 hours though a bed just to his left and many more in other wards were vacant.

Mihir Biswas, 38, a small trader from Gobordanga in North 24-Parganas' Habra, was brought to the hospital after he suffered 70 per cent burns at his home last afternoon. Even though he was admitted around 6pm yesterday, he was kept on the floor till late this afternoon. In the evening, he was allotted a bed after officials intervened.

Hospital authorities cited dearth of beds for keeping Mihir on a mattress on the floor. "As no bed was vacant, the patient couldn't be provided one. But doctors attended to him and he was given medicines and other medical support," a senior hospital official said.

A visit to the surgical ward before the allotment had, however, revealed that a bed was vacant next to Mihir's matress. A few other beds were empty too but the staff had said those belonged to other units.

"These beds are for surgery patients. The beds for patients with burn injuries are occupied and so we are waiting for one to get vacant," a nurse at the surgical ward had said.

Hospital sources said beds in the dermatology and ophthalmology wards and a few other departments where indoor treatment is not usually done were lying vacant.

The patient's relatives alleged that despite requests to doctors and nurses, no bed was allotted for over a day. "We requested the nursing staff and the junior doctors but nothing was done," said Biswajit Biswas, Mihir's uncle.

Biswajit alleged that the relatives were forced to leave the surgical ward by guards when they wanted to submit a written complaint. An on-duty guard said: "Today being Saturday, the administrative department staff left early and so there is no one to take the complaint."

Mihir had been kept in front of the door of the male surgical ward, where the risk of infection is maximum.

Experts said keeping a patient with burn injuries on the floor made him more vulnerable to infections. "If such a patient is kept on the floor among other patients and with people walking past him, the risk of catching infections is significantly higher," city-based plastic surgeon Anupam Golash said.

The health department had said a few days ago that it was planning to issue a circular reminding doctors and officials that beds belonged to hospitals, not a particular doctor or unit, and a patient should be accommodated wherever possible.

Health officials said that though the circular was yet to be issued, all hospitals had been verbally asked to refrain from assigning beds to particular units and restricting patients' access.

"During recent meetings with the authorities of several hospitals, floor admission was discouraged. We have asked them to admit critical patients to any department where beds are vacant. A patient can be shifted once a bed gets empty in the department where he or she should have been admitted," a senior Swastha Bhavan official said.

The health officials said that although Medical Council of India norms made it mandatory for hospitals to allot beds for each department, patients should be accommodated temporarily wherever possible.

"Patients should be accommodated wherever beds are available and it's being done in some cases," said Sushanta Banerjee, the director of medical education.

Last week, RG Kar got a 100-bed satellite unit barely 2km away. All the wards are vacant there now. But officials said that as it was a maternity hospital, Mihir could not be shifted there.

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