NEARLY A month after more than 60 children died within five days at the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur due to alleged lack of oxygen supply, the Ram Manohar Lohia (Mahila) Hospital in Farrukhabad was at the centre of a probe Monday after it emerged that 49 children had died within a month, allegedly for the same reason. The UP government removed Farrukhabad District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar, Chief Medical Officer Uma Kant Pandey and Chief Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Akhilesh Agarwal, with immediate effect. It also ordered a detailed “technical” inquiry into the incident.
By evening, the Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) at the hospital was totally dependent on the nursing staff. Reason: The only doctor at the unit had been called by the administration for a meeting with Minister Chetan Chauhan who visited the hospital earlier in the day.
The 12 units at SNCU and the adjoining seven-bed paediatric ward has been dependent on just one doctor — Dr Kailash Chandra. On Monday, there were 13 newborns at the SNCU. Staff members, however, said that on most days, that number is as high as 20 per day. This unit has no piped liquid oxygen supply. Oxygen “concentrators” and cylinders are used to supply oxygen to the newborns here.
Asked how do they manage round-the-clock emergency services with just one doctor, one of the staff members said: “In case of an emergency, we call the doctor since he lives on the campus. He is the only doctor here. He has to be available 24×7.” When Dr Chandra has to go on leave, then a child expert from the neighbouring hospital for males is called for patient care and management, the staff member said.
The hospital recorded 49 deaths — 30 at the SNCU and 19 during delivery — between July 21 and August 20.
The deaths came to light late Sunday when Farrukhabad City Magistrate J K Jain wrote to the City Kotwali police station house officer, urging that legal action be initiated against doctors at the hospital. Citing a preliminary inquiry he had conducted, Jain claimed that the 49 children had died due to improper oxygen supply.
After he received reports about children dying at the hospital, the District Magistrate, on August 15, asked the CMO and the CMS to probe the matter. Not satisfied with the report they submitted, the District Magistrate asked the City Magistrate to inquire into the matter on August 30.
City Kotwali police SHO Alok Kumar Nigam said following a complaint late Sunday by the City Magistrate, the CMO, CMS of Farrukhabad hospital and other unnamed doctors were booked under IPC sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 176 (omission to give notice or information to public servant by person legally bound to give it).
Sources said while the City Magistrate was conducting his probe, the hospital had given details of 30 deaths, most of which it claimed was the result of “perinatal asphyxia” (deprivation of oxygen to a newborn). Moreover, parents also alleged that the children were not given proper oxygen and medicine, the report added.
However, the government refused to accept the preliminary findings of the report, claiming that the conclusion was reached at merely by speaking to parents over phone. It has now set up a team of doctors, led by Director General (Medical and Health), to conduct a detailed “technical” inquiry.
In Lucknow, Principal Secretary (Health) Prashant Trivedi told reporters that no action will be initiated on the basis of the FIR lodged against the CMO and CMS. “The way things have been presented is not that has happened… No action, therefore, is being initiated on the basis of the FIR registered… For us, it is a report. We will examine it for further action,” he said.
On the removal of the CMO and CMS, Trivedi said: “They have been removed for the simple reason that the DM is the head of administration in a district and they should have coordinated with the DM… If there were any issues, then the same should had been brought to the notice of the administration.”
Sources in the government said police have been asked to wait before initiating any action.
“Oxygen is in proper supply at the hospital. It is without any basis to blame (the deaths on) shortage of oxygen. A team led by Director General (Health) is visiting the hospital soon to inquire in detail,” Trivedi told The Indian Express.
He said that in August, 468 children had been born at the hospital, out of whom 19 were stillborn. “While 66 of these children were admitted to the hospital for critical care, six died due to different reasons… Besides, 145 children were referred to hospital from other places, out of whom 24 died,” he claimed.
When contacted, Principal Secretary (Information) Avanish Awasthi said, “One of the reasons behind the deaths of 30 children, besides the 19 stillborn, was perinatal asphyxia which, as per experts, could also be the result of umbilical cords getting tied around the neck of children during birth. The exact cause will be known once the technical team of doctors inquire into the incident.”
“The DM, CMO and CMS of the hospital have been removed with immediate effect. Further action will be based on the findings of the technical team,” Awasthi said.