With the death of one more new-born baby on Friday, the death toll of infants in the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College in Barpeta, about 140 km from Guwahati, reached nine in three days. Four more infants currently undergoing treatment in the Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) are also in critical condition, official reports said.
A three-member expert committee dispatched by the Assam government on Thursday meanwhile has come out with a report saying, while the condition of all the deceased newborns were “very critical”, most of the mothers too had pregnancy-related complications.While five babies had died within four hours on Wednesday evening, three had died on Thursday and one on Friday.
“All the newborns (which died) were diagnosed as having severe birth asphyxia. Four of the eight babies (which died till Thursday) were of low birth weight. Majority of the mothers did not have proper ante-natal care and attended hospital very late while in labour,” the expert committee in a press release issued here on Friday said.
The expert committee also said that most of the mothers were in critical condition with complications like oligo-hydromnios, severe anaemia, pregnancy-induced hypertension. “All the patients were attended instantly in the hospital and adequate care was given for delivery of babies. The mothers however were saved because of adequate prompt treatment in the hospital,” the expert committee press release added.
The expert committee headed by Gayatri Bezboruah, head of paediatrics department, Guwahati Medical College, which visited the FAA Medical College on Thursday and Friday also said it “thoroughly studied” all aspects related to the incidents and found all equipments and facilities in the SNCU satisfactory.
Meanwhile, Anup Kumar Barman, Director, Medical Education said the FAA Medical College had 26 more new-born babies in its SNCU as on Saturday of which the condition of four were critical. “There are currently 26 new-born babies undergoing treatment in the SNCU at the medical college in Barpeta, of which the condition of four are critical. One of them is in ventilation, while another one is suffering from jaundice,” he said.
While the Barpeta infant deaths have triggered off widespread protests across Assam, health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had on Thursday pointed out that the average number of infant deaths in the medical college in Barpeta was anyway high. “Every month the medical college in Barpeta records an average of 60 infant deaths. It was more two months ago,” Sarma had said, also blaming early marriage as one reason behind the pregnancy-related complicacies in the district.
The overall health scenario of Assam, particularly relating to maternal and neo-natal care, continues to be alarming, with the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) putting the state’s infant mortality rate at 48. The percentage of pregnant and recently child-bearing mothers who had full ante-natal care on the other hand stood at only 18.1 per cent, while early marriage of girls too has remained alarming. About 13.6 per cent of women between 15 and 19 years were already mothers at the time of the NFHS-4 survey, the report said. The health indicators in Barpeta – a district with over 70 per cent Muslim population – are even lower than the state average.