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FIFTY-FIVE babies died at the special newborn care unit (SNCU) of Nashik Civil Hospital in August alone, with 227 newborn deaths registered at the hospital since April this year, even as the Maharashtra health minister denied any medical negligence and emphasised that this is not a “Gorakhpur-like situation”. Across Maharashtra, the state’s 36 SNCUs have registered deaths of 1,756 infants between April and August this year, state health department officials said. They said premature deliveries and low birth weight, especially in tribal areas, are the main reason for the deaths.
Health Minister Dr Deepak Sawant, who held a meeting on the issue on Friday, told The Indian Express, “We do not have a Gorakhpur-like situation in Maharashtra. A team of experts across the state is working at the SNCUs. The main issue is low birth weight of babies.” Referring to the Nashik SNCU incident, he said there was a high number of admissions to the hospital. In August, 346 babies were admitted to the hospital, and “we were able to save 291 babies”, he said.
At least 30 per cent of 1,626 sick babies admitted to the Nashik hospital between April and August were underweight, Dr Archana Patil, in-charge of state family welfare bureau, said. Nashik District Civil Surgeon Dr Suresh Jagdale said that there has been a rise in babies referred to the civil hospital in critical condition from private hospitals in the city and rural areas. “Most of these patients admitted are in a critical condition. Because we are a grade-II hospital, the ventilators required, as well as personnel to handle these emergencies, is not there in this hospital,” he said.
Patil said, “Annually, 50,000 sick babies are admitted to 36 SNCUs across Maharashtra. Most of these are referrals (from other hospitals), and babies are already in a critical condition by the time they are admitted to these units. Despite this, we have been able to bring down the (infant) death rate from 15 per cent in 2011 to 7 per cent this year.”
Dr Ravi Bagal, UNICEF consultant who has additional charge of Child Health (Maharashtra), said that the main cause of death was complications related to low birth weight. “Babies less than 1 kg are (often) brought in a critical condition to our SNCUs, and it is difficult for them to survive,” he said. A majority of these infants died due to respiratory distress syndrome, prematurity, birth asphyxia, he added.
About Nashik Civil Hospital, Jagadle said the government has a Rs 21-crore expansion plan to provide improved neonatal services at medical institution.
Inputs from ENS, Mumbai