At least two more infants died at the JK Lon hospital in Rajasthan’s Kota on Wednesday night, taking the death toll since the start of December to 102. In the last 72-hour period, 11 children have died at the hospital, prompting the intervention of Union health minister Harsh Vardhan.
The central minister on Thursday said the number of deaths is definitely higher this time compared to the last few years as he assured support to the state in tackling the health crisis. “I have written a letter to Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot requesting him to look into the matter,” he said, adding that a multi-disciplinary expert team of top paediatricians was being sent by healthy ministry for "gap analysis and quick measures to be taken".
"The high-level team being despatched by @MoHFW_INDIA incl experts from AIIMS Jodhpur, Health Finance & Regional Director,Health Services Jaipur. It will reach #Kota tomorrow. In my letter too to @ashokgehlot51 ji, I've offered all possible assistance to prevent any further deaths," Vardhan tweeted.
At least a 100 children died at the hospital in the month of December, an increase from the 77 that had died here in December 2018. In the last two days of 2019, nine infants had died – four on December 30 and five on December 31, all mainly due to low birth weight, hospital superintendent Dr Suresh Dulara said.
The rising number of deaths also forced Congress president Sonia Gandhi to seek an explanation from the party’s state president Avinash Pandey. Pandey said a detailed report on the deaths has been submitted to the Congress chief.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, facing criticism from the opposition, in a series of tweets on Thursday assured that his government is sensitive to the deaths of sick infants at the JK Lone Hospital, but insisted that there should be no politics on the issue.
“Infant mortality in this hospital of Kota is steadily decreasing. We will try to reduce it further. The health of mothers and children is our top priority,” he wrote on the micro-blogging site.
The Congress CM also said he welcomes a central government formed team of experts to come and help improve health services in the state. “We are ready for the improvement of medical services in the state with their consultation and cooperation,” he tweeted.
This came two days after a committee formed by the state government had cleared the hospital of any lapses in the death of children, saying that the right treatment was given.
The hospital administration had last week appointed a three-member committee, headed by Paediatrics Department’s chief Amrit Lal Bairwa, to investigate the deaths.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Monday, however, had found serious lapses at the hospital in Kota, saying its inspection had found broken windows and gates, pigs roaming inside campus and acute shortage of staff.
Hospital authorities, however, said the number of deaths reported at the health facility in 2019 has witnessed a steady decline since 2014 when 1,198 children died. In 2019, 963 infants died at the hospital, while the figure stood at 1005 in 2018.
The nursing in-charge of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which specialises in looking after premature and sick newborns, has been replaced, authorities said. Efforts for upgradation and maintenance of equipment at the hospital have been put in place, following directions by the Congress government in the state.
Medical College Principal Dr Vijay Sardana said an order has been issued for installation of central oxygen supply line at the hospital and the work would be completed within the next 15 days.
The direction was issued a day after a BJP parliamentary team comprising of MPs Locket Chatterjee, Kanta Kardam and Jaskaur Meena visited the hospital and expressed concern over its infrastructure. The panel had said that two to three children were found on single beds and the hospital did not have enough nurses.