After at least 16 infants died in Assam's Jorhat Medical College and Hospital within nine days, the state government has ordered a probe into the matter. As many as 16 newborns died in the hospital between November 1 and November 9, with authorities yet to ascertain what caused the deaths.
Some of the babies had congenital diseases, while some had very low birth weight, official sources told NDTV. Authorities, however, claim that the situation is 'alarming' but not 'critical'.
A high-level probe team has been sent from Guwahati to Jorhat, with a preliminary report expected to be released today. "A team has been sent to Jorhat; it also has a member of UNICEF. They will send a report," Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
According to the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH) superintendent Saurav Borkakoti, the deaths happened at the special care newborn unit of the hospital. He has denied medical negligence or neglect of the hospital as having been behind the deaths.
"Sometimes the number of patients coming to the hospital may be large and so the figure of death of newborns may also be large. It depends in what situation the patients have come to the hospital. They may have come with prolonged labour, with low birth weight. In such circumstances, those newborns may die," Mr Borkakoti told news agency PTI.
He said ever since the civil hospital was converted into a full-fledged medical college and hospital, the number of patients have soared, exceeding the available 141-bed capacity. This has forced the hospital to sometimes accommodate more babies, he said.
The hospital has also formed a six-member committee to probe the deaths, he said.
On an average JMCH admits 40 infants of which 6 die. However, according to official sources, 84 infants were admitted in the week during which the 16 deaths took place. Most of the deaths are referral cases, the sources added.
Assam suffers from one of the highest infant as well as maternal mortality rates in the country. According to latest date from NITI Aayog, Assam has had the worst maternal mortality rate from 2004, with the state recording 237 deaths per 1000 live births in the 2014-2016 period, against the national average of 130. The infant mortality rate in Assam was last recorded at 44 in 2016, against the national average of 34.
With inputs from PTI