Mamata Banerjee the CM of West Bengal also holds the portfolio of the crucial Health Ministry. The state’s health appears to be in doldrums with the recent Dengue outbreak. The latest victim (not casualty) of the Dengue epidemic is a 62-year-old senior doctor: Arunachal Dutta. He “was” working in Barasat, in North 24 Paraganas. The said Doctor has been in serving as a specialist with the government from 1983, He has been suspended for disclosing the truth about state of Dengue outbreak and largescale mismanagement in state of West Bengal.
Doctor Arunachal Dutta exposed the failure of the state in a series of posts on Facebook some of which presented mind numbing stats. Here is his post:
October 6, the 62 year old Doctor describes how he was facing a war like situation with impossible 9AM-TO-9AM-24-hours shifts. His post also contains a picture of the Hospital admission board showing that there were 250 admissions under him and the number of assigned nurses were just 3. The care that a dedicated doctor can provide with such shortage of staff and the burden can only be imagined. He says:
“When the number of patients I was treating reached 100, I knew we were working in warlike conditions, but after it approached 500, I realized it was impossible to fight.”
Overcrowding in hospitals, especially in those run by government is a unique problem as patients throng everywhere including corridors. This makes it impossible to locate a patient even if the patient’s reports are checked in time and the decision about his management has been taken. He voiced his concerns with the words:
“Even if one (patient) is located, it is difficult to reach him as one has to step on other patients lying just about everywhere.”
Dr. Arunachal Dutta also mentioned that he was under duress to avoid writing Dengue on the diagnosis report. He was expected to write “People are dying of fever. I’m trying to console them. In the death certificate, I’m writing ‘fever with thrombocytopenia’… not dengue.”
This comes both as an alarm and a shock as Doctor Arunachal Dutta despite his desire to speak the truth was being pressurised into speaking and writing what he does not believe to be the truth. Such is the pathetic state of affairs in West Bengal government hospitals.
The West Bengal government as usual showed its autocratic attitude and immediately ordered the suspension of Senior Dr. Arunachal Dutta from his services by stating that his posts amount to “misinterpretation in the public and (are) derogatory to the hospital administration”.
Then the Government weaved a mega conspiracy theory stating that Bengali tourists are are responsible for responsible for the Dengue epidemic as they holiday in other states and bring the dengue virus to West Bengal.
It is being rumoured is that the West Bengal Government has started hounding private labs and Kolkata municipal council has asked private labs to hand over all blood samples that tested positive for dengue.
Diagnostic Experts have dubbed the task as practically and clinically impossible. Collecting every dengue-positive blood sample from testing centers is a difficult process and it would be even more difficult to preserve samples for re-tests as very few sample collection and testing centres have the facility to preserve the samples at the right temperature, which can ensure a correct result during a re-test.
So how do things stand as of now:
1. The hold of Mamata and her government reigns supreme.
2. Doctors have been instructed to write a diagnosis only after checking with the government, to see if they are okay with it.
3. There is a register that is to be maintained by a government and private hospital for a disease like Dengue because it is a public health problem. The loophole that Mamata government has found is to force the Doctor to not write that diagnosis (even after doing the actual diagnosis) otherwise the state will most probably top the charts in Dengue disease and Dengue related deaths. So once they have successfully arm twisted the Doctor to not write the diagnosis, the government is free from being answerable to central government offices like NVBDCP (National Vector Borne Disease Control Program). So for example, Dengue causes fever and decrease in platelets, the Doctor will be instructed to not write Dengue but term it “Fever with Thrombocytopenia” (Thrombocytopenia means low platelet in medical terminology).
The effect of not writing a diagnosis transpires into another compulsory documentation at the time of death i.e. Death certificate. Whatever is written by a certified Doctor in the diagnosis is taken as the cause of death and the moment Dengue starts appearing repeatedly in death certificates, entire system is alarmed. So the loophole in documentation is once again put into play by forcing the Doctor not to write diagnosis as “Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever” rather mention “Fever with Thrombocytopenia pending evaluation”. Once this is enforced, the government walks away scot free from scrutiny.
The absolute failure West Bengal as a state is a problem to its neighbouring states as well which silently bear the brunt of its population explosion and poor medical services.
The government seems barely alarmed. The blame will most likely be put on the doctors and the CM will continue with what she does the best. Politics.