Hyderabad: Under fire following several deaths in the maternity ward, a premier government hospital in Hyderabad conducted a puja, complete with havan (ritual offerings in fire) on Monday for the welfare of expecting mothers and their babies. Its organiser was a senior doctor and contributions came from several staff members.
- 150-year-old Gandhi Hospital conducted a four-hour Mrutyunjaya homam
- Doctors have been instructed not to conduct such rituals anymore
- Telangana government had introduced special kits for pregnant women
The 150-year-old Gandhi Hospital, which started with three wards, today has 1,800 beds and occupancy is often up to 130 per cent. The hospital, which also has an attached medical college, claims to be the first open-heart surgery centre of Andhra Pradesh.
Its maternity department used to handle 25 to 30 deliveries in a day till a couple of months ago. Recently, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government introduced 'KCR kits' for expectant mothers, similar to a scheme introduced by late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The kit includes cash and items required for a newborn. Following that, the number of deliveries at the hospital almost doubled. But at least half a dozen cases of deaths at the hospital in recent weeks got adverse attention. ''The recent mortality rates are not higher than earlier. But often most critical cases land up here in terminal stages and we don't say no to any patient, so the deaths,'' said Gandhi Hospital deputy superintendent N Narasimha Rao.
The four-hour Mrutyunjaya homam, the participating doctors say, was meant to seek divine blessings and for the long life of mothers and new born babies.
The hospital chief had sanctioned the prayers, sources said. But, after criticism from unions and media, an investigation has been ordered. "We never encourage this kind of thing," said Mr Rao, adding action will be taken after the probe report is in. The doctors have now been asked by the hospital's superintendent to not hold such rituals in the hospital anymore.
Hari Anupama, the head of department of obstetrics and gynaecology, hastened to clarify that the puja was not sponsored by the government. "A few nurses, Class IV employees, a few patients and I participated. We collected the money, voluntary donation. Also it happened outside in the corridor, not in the ward,'' the doctor said.
In December 2015, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's opulent 5-day puja at a time the state was reeling under drought, had made headlines. The Chief Minister had spent Rs 7 crore on it, hiring 1,100 priests for five days to seek favours from the rain god. The sheer scale of the event had drawn huge criticism from the opposition.