The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) last week told the Bombay High Court it was forced to keep more than one baby in cradles in the neonatal care units of its hospitals owing to shortage of beds and increasing number of infants in requirement of care.
“As such, keeping more than one baby in an infant warmer cradle goes against the basic tenets of quality of neonatal care as the incidences of hospital-acquired infections rise. Yet, these respondents (BMC) have no option but to keep more than one baby in a cradle so that more needy and critically ill babies can be provided neonatal care and life saving opportunities,” an affidavit submitted by the BMC said.
The corporation was responding to a suo motu PIL initiated by the court following a tabloid report about an infant who was being kept in an ice-box at home, after he was allegedly turned away by the civic-run KEM hospital that cited a long waiting list for its neonatal care unit.
The affidavit, filed by KEM’s dean in-charge Shubhangi Parkar, stated: “Thermacol boxes with punched air vents for breathing are an acceptable low-cost innovation to transport pre-term babies to referral units and have routinely served as indigenous transport incubators in resource-constrained settings in India. Thermacol being a poor conductor of heat would help maintain the baby’s temperature.”
Arguing for the BMC, senior counsel E P Bharucha told the court, “It sounds very bad, but there is nothing wrong with it.”
Emphasising on the shortage of beds in the neonatal units of civic hospitals, the affidavit stated that any given time, the number of babies in the neonatal unit of the hospital is 125-175 per cent of its bed strength.
The affidavit added, “There are 107 semi-intensive care unit beds in the peripheral hospitals of the BMC and 35 more are proposed to be added.”
The corporation claimed that while its staff struggled to provide care to more neonates than it could accommodate, private and state-run hospitals too must be made more accountable.
“If all private neonatal units, small and big, were to pitch in at least 10 per cent of the charitable services to neonates, a lot more babies would be provided neonatal care in the city. Very often, the very critical neonates are sent by private hospitals without finding out the availability of beds in the BMC hospitals. This creates critical emergency for needy neonates, compelling parents to wander with neonates from one hospital to another,” the BMC contended.
Meanwhile, assistant government pleader Milind More submitted an affidavit to the court stating that there were 593 neonatal beds available in state-run hospitals across Maharashtra. Claiming that there were sufficient beds in the rest of the state, the affidavit stated that between April 2013 and February 2014, the beds have been utilised for 24,209 new-borns in state hospitals and 11,846 born in other hospitals.