The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued a notice to the Maharashtra government, taking suo motu cognisance over a report on high neonatal deaths in Akola’s district women hospital. The commission has asked the chief secretary to submit a detailed report on the steps taken by the state government to curb neonatal deaths.
The Indian Express reported on October 16 that in 2016-17 the state’s largest government-run women’s hospital admitted 4,152 children in the sick newborn care unit (SNCU), of which 451 died. In its notice, the NHRC said, “The medical superintendent has reportedly stated that every month, they admit at least 250 babies in the SNCU and there is a need for more hands to cope with the high number of patients. The state government has been given six weeks time to respond to the reported allegations.”
The commission added that the government hospital is facing paucity of medical doctors, nurses and staffers. This, it stated, “amounts to serious issue of violation of human rights of the innocent babies as well as their families and demands immediate time-bound action by the state government,” the notice stated.
The NHRC has asked the government to submit a detailed report, detailing the steps taken in improving neonatal infrastructure. Following reports of high neonatal deaths in Nashik in September, the health department decided to scale up SNCUs in the state. While government hospitals have no neonatalogists, it is relying on paediatricians to treat newborns. Low birth weight babies account for maximum neonatal deaths in the state.