Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Final Medical Report on Nandigram

Final Medical Report from Nandigram
Here is the report of the injuries as documented by three medical teams.
The data were analysed and the report is prepared by Dr. Sumita Das and Shubhashis Mukherjee.
Circulate the report widely.

After the incident of firing by the police at Bhangabera, Nandigram on 14.3.2007, report of large-scale ailment arising out of and as a consequence of the said incident had reached the media. Some doctors and health workers decided to visit the affected area to render the very urgent medical help to the people affected by the incident.

A team of doctors (Medical Service Centre, Kolkata) visited several affected areas of Nandigram on 17.3.2007 and came out with a report which was reported in the press.

On 18.3.2007, a team comprising of 6 physicians including 2 female physicians, 3 junior doctors, 3 sisters, medical students and health-workers, organanised by three public-spirited organizations working on health, i.e., SRAMAJIBI SWASTHA UDYOG, PEOPLES’ HEALTH and JANASWASTHA SWADIKAR MANCHA visited some of the affected areas of Nandigram to render medical help to the affected people.

They found that the severely injured persons were already taken to the hospital and persons who were critically injured had already been transferred to Tomluk and SSKM/ RG Kar MCH of Kolkata. But they found that a large population, predominantly women were suffering from blunt trauma, very often multiple, had not received any medical help. The same is true also for a very large number of people, suffering from eye-problems ( watering, photophobia, burning sensation, redness in eyes etc.) even 4 days after the tear-gas exposure ( on 14.3.2007). People were also suffering from mental trauma, though unfortunately the medical team did not have a psychiatrist or a psychologist who could have professionally assess the actual extent of the trauma.

The medical team treated 129 patients and had the opportunity to talk to about 300 victims, who described the unprovoked and brutal attack on unarmed assembly of villagers, including a large number of women and children which continued even after people had dispersed and was trying to flee from the scene. The women also described with horrid details of sexual assaults on them. Attackers, they said included a large number of persons with police uniform but with chappals. The Medical Team had also found that return to their home and resume their normal activities. Camps were organized by the local people to provide food for these affected people. These camps were suffering from an acute shortage of provisions required to run the kitchen ( the medical team provided a day’s provision to one camp).

The next visit took place on 21.3.2007. It was a general relief cum medical relief team consisting of two physicians and 4 health workers. There was plan for documenting the trauma of the victims, though due to shortage of time, addition burden of general relief work, the number of patients treated and documented was limited to 30 in three different places. We provided general relief and provisions to four different relief camps in the affected areas worth Rs 15, 790.

The third visit was on 24-25th March, 2007 . from the experience of two previous visits by the medical team, it was decided that the team should stay in the affected areas for overnight to render more intensive and extensive medical assistance, and that it would concentrate on medical relief only. This time the team comprised of eight doctors, including two female doctors and one orthopedic surgeon, one sister and seven health workers. They organized 4 medical camps, in Southkhali ( 24.3.2007), Sonachura High School (25.3.2007), Kalicharanpur Primary School ( 25.3.2007) and Dakshin Jalpai, Bhangabera (25.3.2007).

It was seen from the T.V. clips that many persons were shot at the chest, abdomen and even in their heads, though when dispersing a mob, the police is to “use as little force and do as little injury to person and property as may be consistent with dispersing the assembly, arresting and detaining such persons”. ( Section 130, CrPc).
The medical team also saw bullet injuries (grazing) at the face level.
The number of victims was found to be very large and included a large number of women and children also.
The lathi charge was extensive, it was inflicted even on women who had already fled from the place of assembly and was hiding in nearby houses and bushes in and around the place. This lathi charge was severe, producing multiple blunt injuries with bruises which was evident on medical examination even on 4/7/11 and 12 days after the event. These injuries included fracture, spine injury, chest injury etc. Injury marks were mostly found on abdomen upwards. It may be mentioned here that when the medical team reached the scene, the people with major injuries had already been taken to various hospitals.
Many people suffered from the musculo-skeletal injuries including fall etc., as they were trying to escape the scene and police was persistently chasing them.
Many persons were injured due to beating by the police while they were trying to rescue the injured persons and the children.
Many women complained of sexual assault. They were also found to bear injury marks on their breasts, abdomen and private part. However, lack of privacy and other infrastructure prevented the medical team from proper physical examination and even thorough history taking.
A very large number of affected people, predominantly women, were found to be suffering from eye problems (burning sensation, watering, phototophobia, foreign body sensation, dimness in vision, headache etc), persisting even 11 days after the exposure to tear gas.
So much so that every camp attended to about 70-80 percent of patients suffering from eye problems related to tear gas exposure. Some persons also had injury from tear gas shell explosion, burning injury from contact of tear gas shell, history of breathlessness from close and prolonged exposure to tear gas etc. It may be mentioned that almost all the persons affected by the tear gas rinsed their eyes continuously with water for quite some time.
Thus it appears to the medical team that the gas used against the people may not be the usual tear gas ordinarily used to disperse the mob, but something unusual having more permanent and serious effects. The medical team urges a serious investigation into this matter.
It was found that although most of the severely wounded people were transferred to hospitals, a few seriously wounded persons, including a nine years old boy suffering from supracondylar fracture of arm, a case of spinal injury etc., practically received no medical attention. Also, many people, who attended Nandigram Hospital , did not receive medicines due to shortage of required medicine and many patients could not be investigated properly due to lack of infrastructure there. Patients suffering from eye problems specifically did not receive any medical treatment. It may be noted here that Nadigram Hospital (BPHC) may be called a glorified primary health center and not equipped to deal with so many serious injury and other cases. It was also learnt that Nandigram Hospital did not receive much additional support even after the incident.
An interesting observation was that very few patients came to the medical camp for ailments unrelated to the incidence of 14.3.2007 and those who came for injuries etc also mainly reported the injuries only and generally had no other medical complain.

Many patients were found to be suffering from mental trauma with symptoms of sleeplessness, anorexia, anxiety and fear. They were in fear of repeat of attack, anxiety for the safety of near and dear ones, and particularly about sexual assault of young daughters. But unfortunately the medical team did have trained human resource to properly assess situation, so the number of patients suffering from mental trauma mentioned here would be an understatement of the actual state of affairs. However, a team of psychiatrists and other mental health workers has already organized a camp in Sonachura on 31.3.2007. Their reports will be published soon.
Members of the March 24-25 medical team trained about 20 activists regarding cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, control of bleeding, management of fractures and transport of the injured. The trainees included two quack doctors. They were provided with first aid kits. The aim of the training was to prepare activists in handling injuries in further attacks.

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