The toll at JK Lon hospital in Rajasthan’s Kota district has reached 91 as 14 more infants died between December 25 and December 29. At least 77 infants had died till December 24, including 10 within 48 hours on December 23-24.
No particular cause of death has been given by the hospital administration. Asked about it, Amrit Lal Bairwa, Head of Department of Pediatrics, said they are analysing the reasons behind the 77 deaths till December 25. Out of the 14 infants who died later, four succumbed to severe pneumonia, one to meningoencephalitis, four to congenital pneumonia, three to pneumatic septicemia and one to respiratory disorder, he said.
During the inspection by a team from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), it has been found out that the hospital has no glass in windows panes, gates are broken, and as a result, the admitted children are exposed to the extreme weather conditions.
The apex child rights body also said the general upkeep and maintenance of the hospital are in the "worst condition".
"Pigs were found roaming inside the campus of the hospital," chairperson of NCPCR, Priyank Kanoongo, said in a show-cause notice issued to Vaibhav Galriya, Secretary of Medical Education Department in Rajasthan government, seeking an action taken report from him on its findings.
Politics brewing over the deaths
The deaths of children have created a political furore in Rajasthan where the Opposition BJP is targeting the ruling Congress government over the issue.
BJP working president JP Nadda formed a committee on December 30, comprising four members of Parliament (MPs) to look into the alarming number of infant deaths at the hospital. The panel includes Lok Sabha MPs Jaskaur Meena, Locket Chatterjee and Bharati Pawar, and Rajya Sabha MP Kanta Kardam and has been asked to submit its report within three days to Nadda, the party said in a statement.
Meanwhile, state BJP leaders and former health ministers Rajendra Singh Rathore and Kalicharan Saraf visited the hospital on December 30 and interacted with the staff. They slammed the Ashok Gehlot government for trying to defend itself with the argument that the number of such deaths was less now than under the BJP rule.
Their visit did not go well with the ruling Congress as its workers staged a protest outside the hospital, alleging that the BJP leaders were politicising the issue.
Rathore dismissed the allegation and said they have come with a positive approach and will recommend steps to ensure that such deaths do not recur.
What steps have been taken by the Rajasthan government?
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has directed setting up of a committee of doctors and subject experts to look into the deaths and submit a report at the earliest to take steps to check such incidents in future.
Also, Secretary Galriya has directed the hospital administration to complete the tender process for getting necessary equipment at the earliest, besides laying oxygen pipeline for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), availing services of nursing staff on contractual basis and increasing sampling process frequency.
History of the hospital
According to official data, the hospital has witnessed such deaths in the past many years. In fact, the number of deaths has been declined in the last six years.
In 2014, 15,719 patients were admitted, out of which 1,198 died. In 2019, 16,892 patients were admitted out of which 940 died, the data stated.(With inputs from PTI)