NEW DELHI :
The number of infants who have died at Kota’s J.K. Lon Hospital in Government Medical College in the last few days rose to 110 on Sunday, leading to severe criticism of the Congress government in the state from the Opposition parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The party even faced flak from its own senior leader and deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, who said the state government’s response to the issue could have been more ‘sensitive and compassionate’.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi is known to be keeping a track of the developments in the state through senior leaders of the state.
“It is an extremely sensitive issue. This is not an issue over which politics should be done. Even one infant should not die. It is the duty of the government and the hospital administration to work on improving things," Ashok Gehlot, chief minister of Rajasthan, told ANI.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took cognizance of the issue and issued a notice to the chief secretary of Rajasthan seeking a detailed report within four weeks regarding action being taken to handle the situation.
The report submitted to the state health department by the three-member committee of doctors set up by the state government to review the situation, has painted a grim picture of the state hospital’s handling of the crisis.
The infants died as a result of hypothermia at a time that north India, including Rajasthan, is reeling under extreme cold conditions and the hospital lacks enough stocks of lifesaving equipment, according to the report. Hypothermia is a condition when the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature.
As many as 22 of the 28 nebulizers were dysfunctional and 81 infusion pumps out of 111 were not working, the report said.
“What worsened the matters was the absence of oxygen pipeline in the hospital because of which oxygen was supplied to children with the help of cylinders. Surprisingly, the intensive care unit was not fumigated for months," the report said.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), took stock of the situation, and wrote to the chief secretary. The commission in its investigation found that there were no window panes and doors were broken in the paediatric ward.
Infants admitted to the hospital were kept in cold weather conditions. “General upkeep and maintenance of the hospital is poor. Pigs were found roaming inside the hospital campus," the NCPCR said.
The Rajasthan government has said that the infants died because of low birth weight and were born prematurely.
Public health experts claim that temperature may be an important determinant for infant deaths, while nutrition of mothers is also important.
“Premature birth is still the top cause of infant death across the world. Temperature is also an important determinant. The root cause is lack of comprehensive antenatal care (care during pregnancy) and nutrition," said Chandrakant Pandav, member, National Council on India Nutrition Challenges, POSHAN Abhiyan.
Anuja contributed to this story.