Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday tweeted that he has invited Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to visit the government-run hospital in Rajasthan's Kota district where 100 babies died in December, in a passive-aggressive online exchange, signalling the start of a possible blame game.
Ashok Gehlot said the Kota hospital is equipped with the "best of facilities" and "proper management by the state Health Department."
"Harsh Vardhan ji is himself a doctor and if he visits the hospital in #Kota, it will also clarify the situation for people, who are giving reaction mischievously, knowingly, unknowingly and also innocently," he tweeted.
I telephoned Central Health Minister @drharshvardhan ji and requested him to visit #Kota personally so that he can see the best of facilities and proper management by State Health Department and get himself apprised of the facts.— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) January 2, 2020
Mr Gehlot's remarks came hours after the Centre announced that it will send a high-level delegation of health experts to the hospital in Kota, about 250 km from state capital Jaipur, on Friday to assess the infrastructural gaps that led to the tragedy and suggest measures to prevent further deaths.
"I informed @ashokgehlot51 ji that Rs 91.7 lakhs has already been advanced to JK Loan Hospital during 2019-20 under National Health Mission. Kota District alone has an annual allocation of Rs 27.45 Cr for '19-20, from the annual budgeted amount of Rs 1788.97 Cr for Rajasthan state," Dr Harsh Vardhan had tweeted.
I told @ashokgehlot51 ji that #Rajasthan may go ahead and propose for further financial assistance in the upcoming Rajasthan National Health Mission (NHM) meeting after doing their gap analysis.— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) January 2, 2020
We'll do our best to prevent further deaths, I assured him fully.#KotaChildDeaths
BJP's Rajasthan unit last week accused the chief minister of being insensitive towards the death of the babies. "Ashok Gehlot's statement 'Maute to hote hi rahti hai' (deaths tend to take place) in hospital is really sad and disappointing. These deaths were not supposed to have happened, state BJP president Satish Poonia was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
Nine babies died on the last two days of December taking the total number of deaths in the month to 100. "The children have not died because of a single factor. The extreme cold weather is also perhaps an added reason for the sudden spike in deaths as extreme weather affects neo-natals adversely, especially those who are low birth weight," read the report of a three-member committee appointed by the Chief Minister to investigate the matter.
The state government in its report admitted that some of the incubators at the hospital used for newborns were not in proper working condition.
Authorities, however, said the number of deaths at the hospital in 2019 has seen a sharp decline since 2014. The tragedy has set off a political storm, with leaders across the country raising questions over the state of healthcare in Rajasthan. India spends just over one per cent of its national income on health care -- one of the lowest in the world.