The treatment meted out to a certain Biswanath Paria, who died of dengue in Kolkata’s MR Bangur state general hospital last Saturday, makes a mockery of the Hippocratic oath and canons of humane behaviour in the wider canvas. In a city that has already reported several dengue, even swine flu, deaths ~ almost an annual affliction at this time of year ~ the government’s health authorities ought to have put their shoulder to the wheel by now.

Far from it. The attitude makes a travesty of the Chief Minister’s recent verbal demarche to state and private hospitals in general, though it was primarily focused on the fee structure. In the event, neither have the fees been made more rational in private hospitals nor has the problem of according short shrift to critical patients in government establishments been addressed. Altogether, the sick and the dying have to countenance the worst of both worlds. As he languished inside the ambulance, Paria ~ who had tested positive ~ was for two days made to shuttle from one hospital to another for want of beds, including at the supposedly leading referral esblishment called the SSKM hospital.

And despite the fact that both MR Bangur and SSKM are acutely aware that dengue can be potentially mortal. In both these government hospitals, the indifference of the authorities drove the patient quicker to death than to a scintilla of medical treatment. To have prescribed medicines for common fever, as the doctors at MR Bangur reportedly did, almost verged on quackery, as a report in this newspaper suggests.

It is hard not to wonder whether this is par for the course in a state where the police have tracked down an increasing number of fake doctors. Unwittingly or otherwise, both hospitals have binned the Chief Minister’s directive not to turn away patients who visit hospitals to be treated… and not die. In death, Paria symbolises the nemesis of the overwhelming sclerosis in the health sector despite the Chief Minister’s initiatives.

Till a few years ago, the state lacked the wherewithal to conduct the blood tests of dengue suspects; samples for pathological tests used to be sent to a virological centre in Pune to confirm dengue, chikungunya or encephalitis. Small wonder that Paria had got the tests done in a private clinic. In both hospitals, the authorities were provided with reports to convince them of the patient’s critical condition.

And yet they betrayed a remarkable degree of insensitivity, verily the soul of irresponsibility. The government has reportedly promised an inquiry and it is hoped responsibility will be fixed. This also highlights the need for the School of Tropical Medicine to be spruced up suitably… as one last hope in a dismal scenario.