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Death of a Sister

Editorial |

The canker of the healthcare malaise has permeated from Kolkata’s Dhakuria to Salt Lake. The Advanced Medical Research Institute (AMRI) has disgraced itself again, indeed by according short shrift to the Hippocratic oath. This time it wasn’t a fire accident and the resultant asphyxiation, but an instance of almost calculated negligence.

Destiny be damned; one could argue that the 26-year-old nursing sister, Uma Khes of the Salt Lake AMRI, was ~ by the hospital authorities ~ driven quicker to death than to a scintilla of treatment. The facts are barely stated. Having dutifully turned up for the night shift, she complained of excrutiating chest pain shortly after midnight. She was denied leave despite having been under the weather for a while.

Incredible as it may sound but nonetheless is true, she was denied admission to AMRI’s ICU, was asked to visit the far less equipped ESI hospital, and then administered a pain-killer injection which is alleged to have hastened the end of this young lady from a remote area of Odisha.

No less astonishing must be the fact that no monitoring device was attached to her as she languished in the emergency ward. The neglect only compounded her chest complications and she died after a cardiac arrest. Such callous indifference, verging on criminal medical negligence, would be hard to imagine even in a decrepit rural healthcare centre.

The handling of Uma makes a mockery of the ESI’s stipulation that a patient covered by its insurance scheme should be provided with “immediate emergency treatment at the nearest healthcare facility” public or private.

This is the fundamental norm that was violated at AMRI. Sister Uma could scarcely have countenanced a deeper tragedy in her lifetime ~ she was refused treatment in the hospital she had served till her final hours, and this is the fact of the matter that makes Thursday’s tragedy still more poignant.

It was inhuman not to have admitted Uma to the ICU with urgent despatch.

The cost of critical care in a swanky outfit is of lesser moment in the overall construct. To argue, as the AMRI management has done, that she would have been reimbursed by the West Bengal government for treatment at the ESI hospital, is only to duck responsibility in the event of an emergency.

And this is the thread that runs from the state to private hospitals… for all the Chief Minister’s verbal demarche on fees and treatment. Considering that AMRI boasts an employees’ health scheme, as distinct from ESI, Sister Uma deserved to be treated in her workplace.

The lack of attention was almost deliberate. Her epitaph can be as stark as that. On the 70th anniversary of Independence, AMRI has compounded the Gorakhpur tragedy.