Ten days after deaths of more than 60 children were reported at a Gorakhpur hospital, allegedly due to lack of oxygen supply, three infants have died at Raipur’s biggest state-run hospital, their deaths coinciding with a critical drop in the oxygen storage unit for the neo-natal ward.
Government officials have claimed the drop in oxygen levels in the storage unit had no effect on oxygen supply to the ward. Speaking to reporters at Bhimrao Ambedkar Hospital Monday, Subrat Sahu, Principal Secretary, Health, said that between 5 and 5.30 pm on Saturday, a doctor at the neo-natal unit noticed that the indicator on the oxygen reservoir had dropped. “The doctor then called the operator, Ravi Chandra, but he did not answer his phone. He has been suspended and arrested, as he was found asleep and inebriated on duty. The doctor then checked the storage unit and the situation was brought back to normal,” Sahu said.
Sahu, however, said the drop in oxygen level in the reservoir did not mean any obstruction in oxygen supply to the ward. “The oxygen supply has two parallel systems, and none of those were affected. There was absolutely no effect on the oxygen supply to the wards,” he said.
Sahu said two of the three children died hours before 5 pm. While one child died at 12.30 pm following complications of early delivery and low birth weight, another died at 1.20 pm because of meconium aspiration, he said. The third child, who died at 1 am, was suffering from a heart ailment, said Sahu.
Prakash Vishwakarma, father of one of the children, said they had come from Balaghat in MP. “In Balaghat, they told us that my daughter had a hole in her heart. We went to Gondia in Maharashtra, but they told us to go to hospitals in Raipur. The first one we went to was shut, and on Saturday, we admitted her here. They say she died last night but we were only told in the morning, and we have not been told why. She was only five days old. We hadn’t even named her,” he said.
Despite government officials insisting that the drop in oxygen levels did not affect operations in the neo-natal ward, questions abound. Asked why conclusions were being drawn without post-mortem on any of the three children, officials said the operation was not routine practice in “natural deaths”.
The state government issued a statement, saying that CM Raman Singh has ordered an enquiry into the incident.
The Opposition has alleged that the government was attempting to cover up the deaths.