Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Holiday hangover claims 88 patients in 7 days at RMCH

Thirty-year-old housewife Lal Banu died yesterday, five days later her admittance into Rajshahi Medical College Hospital (RMCH).

Her mother Ez Banu was lamenting while her hapless husband was sitting silently by two minor children on the hospital premises for the release of her body.

"Life of my wife must have been saved, if I could afford proper treatment. Doctors seldom attend patients at the government hospital," Lal Banu's husband Haider Hossain of Vetkibari village under Niamatpur upazila in Naogaon described his plight with certain anger in his eyes as this correspondent proceeded them.

"There is only one doctor at Ward No 3 that was full with patients as we admitted her with both of her legs severely broken in a road accident and she was bleeding profusely", Haider, a solvent farmer, added.

He said, "We managed them (doctors) whatever medicine or medical equipment they sought. She was given blood. But doctors and nurses did not appear on time when she needed an injection, medicine or checkup."

"There was none beside her when she expired despite her utmost desire to live. Doctors came later only to confirm her death," he added.

With Lal Banu, some 10 patients died at RMCH yesterday as a total of 88 patients died in last seven days since October 1 while most of the doctors did not turn up almost deserting the hospital to celebrate Eid and Puja festivals and holiday hangover.

The RMCH records show that at least 12 patients have been dying at the hospital every day since October 1.

According to the records, 11 patients died on October 1 while 12 on October 2, 14 on October 3, 11 on October 4, 14 on October 5, 16 on October 6 and 10 on yesterday.

The rate of death is higher at ward numbers of 8, 10, 14, 16, 20, 21, 24 and 27 in comparison with other wards.

Usually on public holidays, the pressure on RMCH mounts as other hospitals and clinics refer their critical patients here, said RMCH sources.

The number of patients was high in the first four days of October and on an average, 300 to 400 patients visit the hospital's emergency department every day, the sources said, adding that the number increased up to 450 and even more during the vacation.

While visiting RMCH wards yesterday, attendants complained of shortage of doctors and said that instead of doctors, interns are giving treatment. A few consultants and specialised doctors were seen on duty, but they were providing time to representatives of different medicine companies.

The air in the hospital was thick with grief of relatives of the dead patients while the hospital staffs were also seen passing busy hours releasing the bodies.

Attendants of the patients alleged that most patients are released from the emergency department following shortage of doctors.

Sirajul Islam of Baneswar at Puthia upazila was admitted to RMCH with breathing problems.

He died on Monday due to lack of proper treatment, claimed his family.

"If we could have predicted of such poor condition of treatment here, we would not have taken him here," said his daughter Piari Begum while weeping. She said no specialised doctor attended his father since he was admitted on Sunday.

With labour pains, Lucky was rushed to RMCH from Tarash upazila in Sirajganj. She was kept on waiting for a doctor to operate her until she died on Monday. Her husband Jahangir questioned dignity of doctors.

Jahir Uddin of Kushtia was admitted at Ward No 17 with liver ailments. When his son was frantically looking after a doctor in and outside the ward, his father expired on the same day.

"There should be a specialised doctor at every ward round the clock, but there was none at the ward," Jahangir's son Rezaul said.

Some three specialised doctors at three wards told this correspondent that they each were looking after more than one department.

"How I can deal with so many patients alone and the authorities take little care about attendance of doctors at the hospital," said one of them preferring anonymity.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, RMCH Director Brig Gen Khademul Insan M Iqbal said the deaths are 'normal' at the hospital that usually deals with 1300 patients daily. "If it is not normal, why 10 patients have died today (Tuesday) that is not a holiday."

"Ours is not a European country, we are working amid shortage of doctors, poor facilities as elsewhere in the country, but we did never lack sincerity", he said.

He denied the allegation of poor treatment and said, "We employed sufficient doctors and kept mobile phone numbers of senior doctors for calling them in serious condition."

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