Following the death of 18 infants over three days at the Civil Hospital in Asarwa here, the Gujarat government on Sunday announced a committee to look into the incident, amid protests by the Opposition that sought resignation of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Health Minister Shankar Chaudhary. Hospital authorities said that most of the deaths took place as the children were underweight, and added that many were referred from private hospitals.
Of the 18 infants who died, nine were referred from other hospitals, the rest were directly admitted to the civil hospital. As many as nine children died on Saturday — between 6 am and noon.
Speaking with the media on the incident, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Sunday said: “We have formed a committee to take steps, if there is any negligence in service that has resulted in the deaths of children. The committee’s report will come soon. According to the information I have gathered, no child has died for lack of medicine, lack of treatment or any facility in the hospital. But, since nine children have died in a day (on Saturday), the state government has considered it serious and appointed the inquiry committee. Since last night, we have sent top health officials, the health secretary and health commissioner to the hospital.” The three-member inquiry committee will inquire into the reasons for the deaths and and also pre-emptive measures to avoid a repeat.
Until late Saturday evening, hospital superintendent Dr M M Prabhakar vehemently denied any such death, but later admitted that they had occurred.
Curiously, it was BJP state spokesperson Bharat Pandya who extracted an official explanation from the hospital and handed it to the media. Soon, Dr Prabhakar too released an identical statement.
“Nine babies were referred from distant places like Lunavada, Surendranagar, Mansa, Viramgam and Himmatnagar. The infants had severe life threatening conditions such as extremely low birth weight around 1.1 kg (normal average birth weight is 2.5 kg), hyaline membrane disease, early onset of septicaemia, disseminated intravascular coagulation, etc,” the statements read.
Four babies born in the Civil Hospital died of lethal complications such as birth asphyxia and meconium aspiration, Dr Prabhakar said. He added that the average number of deaths of newborns in the hospital was around five to six per day, and hence nine deaths in day was “only slightly more”.
On the other hand, Congress workers allegedly damaged furniture in Dr Prabhakar’s chamber during a protest on Sunday.
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