OF THE 100 children who died at the J K Lon government hospital in Kota in December, 10 died within 48 hours — between December 23 and 24. Many of them had been referred from smaller hospitals in the area.
Some of their parents work as labourers, others have marginal land holdings; some are from Kota, others are from neighbouring districts like Bundi and Baran. United in their grief and poverty, they say they had no alternative as they cannot afford private hospitals.
The Indian Express spoke to some of the grieving families: Sagar Singh, father of Bharat (23 months) Bharat died on December 24 at 5:15 pm, a day after he was admitted to the hospital. Official records show the cause of death as “seizure disorder” with “aspiration pneumonia”.
“My son was referred to this hospital from a hospital in Baran. Such was the negligence of the staff at J K Lon Hospital that my aunt noticed that the cannula had stopped working, and he had a swelling on his hand. When this was pointed out to the hospital staff, they didn’t insert a fresh cannula,” alleged Sagar Singh, who works as a homeguard and also has a small shop in Baran district.
Editorial | Horror in Kota
“In the evening, his condition became serious. When my wife sought help from a doctor, he said my son had been dead for some time. But we had seen him alive moments ago. Instead of trying to revive him, the doctors were arguing among themselves,” he alleged.
“My son would have turned two on January 15. We had thought of celebrating his birthday,” he said. Nand Bihari Meena, father of Jogendra (7)
Jogendra died on December 23 at 12:15 am, about 12 hours after he was admitted to the hospital. Hospital records show the cause of death as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
“My son suddenly fell ill. The government hospital in Kapren (in Bundi district) referred him to Kota… We couldn’t afford a private hospital, so we admitted him at the J K Lon Hospital, hoping that he would get better treatment, since it is the biggest government hospital in the area. But the ventilators didn’t work properly,” said Meena (25), a resident of Keshorai Patan in Bundi district.
In its report on December 27, the hospital’s paediatrics department mentioned that of the 19 ventilators, 13 were not working.
“We cannot afford a private hospital… If they die after being taken to a government hospital, what choice do we have,” he said. Meena, who has a younger son, said besides growing wheat on his small plot of land, he earns about Rs 3,000 per month by working as a labourer.
Neeru Devi, grandmother of day-old infant
The infant girl died on December 23 at 5:40 am, a day after she was born at the J K Lon Hospital. She hadn’t even been named yet. According to hospital records, the infant was put on ventilator after birth. The hospital records show the cause of death as “SBA (severe birth asphyxia) with HIE-3 (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy)”.
“The hospital staff didn’t cooperate. They didn’t answer our questions and, at times, even misbehaved with my son. The doctors didn’t come on time,” alleged Devi, a resident of Rajgarh village in Kota district.
“The hospitals and health centres near our village lack proper facilities, so we thought that both the mother and child would receive better care at this hospital. Now, my son and daughter-in-law have lost their first-born,” she said.
Her son, Budhraj, works as a daily wage labourer in MGNREGA projects. Devi said they depend on government schemes, availing foodgrain under the public distribution system and depending on government infrastructure for health services.
Tonu Gour, father of one-and-a-half-day-old infant
Gour, a labourer from Barda in Baran district, said his infant son was referred from the government hospital in Baran to J K Lon Hospital on December 21, as he developed complications immediately after birth. He lived for just one-and-a-half days. Hospital records say that he died on December 23 at 4:30 am, of “septicaemia with septic shock”.
Gour said many children from his village are referred to J K Lon Hospital, since it is the biggest children’s hospital in the area. “We can’t even think of going to private hospitals,” he said.
Sanjay Rawal, father of Tejash (5 months)
Tejash died on December 23 at 10 pm, a day after was brought to the J K Lon Hospital. Official records show the cause of death as severe pneumonia.
“The hospital staff would not listen to us. When we saw him facing difficulty and called the staff, they didn’t come. At times, we were asked to oversee the oxygen pipes. There was utter negligence on their part… nobody cared whether my child lived or died,” said Rawal, who works at the local seed market in Kota.
Deepak Kushwaha, father of Mishti (one-and-half months)
Kushwaha’s infant daughter died on December 24 at 1:30 am, a day after she was admitted to the hospital. The cause of death is mentioned as “complex cyanotic CHD (congenital heart defect)” in hospital records.
“There is no point in taking your child there. The doctors rarely come to check on the patients. Everybody could enter the NICU without any restrictions, and despite raising these issues, nobody listened to us. We didn’t get any support from the hospital,” said Kushwaha, who works as a daily wage labourer in Kota.
The grieving families alleged several shortcomings in the hospital, including lack of maintenance and adequate care by the staff. In its report, the hospital’s paediatrics department mentioned that more than one equipment was out of order, including infusion pumps, infant warmers, phototherapy machines and ventilators. In fact, of the total 533 pieces of equipment at the hospital, 320 were not functioning, according to the report.