Both the government and hospital authorities, however, have denied negligence on their part and attributed it to natural causes. "Of the nine deaths in 24 hours, five babies were referred from distant places -- Lunawada, Surendranagar, Mansa, Viramgam, Himmatnagar -- and were having severe life threatening conditions such as extremely low birth weight (around 1.1 kg), hyaline membrane disease, early onset septicaemia and disseminated intra-vascular coagulation," the government said in a statement today.
"The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Civil Hospital Ahmedabad is a 100 bedded unit with all modern facilities such as ventilator care, exchange transfusion, neonatal resuscitation. All designated staff including Senior professors, junior residents and adequate number of staff nurses are on duty 24x7 in this unit,'' an official said.
Officials though admitted that extremely low birth weight deliveries continue to be a challenge in Gujarat in view of the suboptimal nutritional status of pregnant women.
The average number of deaths of newborns in the Ahmedabad civil hospital is around five to six per day, hospital sources told NDTV.
They also claimed that a large number of newborns were referred to the hospital from far-off places due to unavailability of doctors and hospitals due to Diwali holidays.
The hospital has ordered a probe into the circumstances and causes of their death. Dr RK Dixit, Deputy Director, Medical Education will head the probe committee that will include senior doctors from paediatrics and obstetric and gynecology from other medical college, Superintendent of Civil hospital, Dr Prabhakar announced.
The incident has snowballed into a political storm ahead of the assembly elections in the state with the Congress questioning the claims by the BJP government over the state of healthcare in Gujarat. "The BJP government has been bragging about effective health care being put into place. So why are deaths of newborns taking place in such a huge number. The reality on ground as far as medical sector is concerned is far different from what is being claimed,'' alleged Congress spokesman Manish Doshi.