The Jammu and Kashmir government on Saturday ordered an inquiry after a woman gave birth to a baby on a road as doctors at the state's premier maternity care hospital allegedly refused to admit her.
The woman, a resident of Kupwara district of north Kashmir, delivered a baby girl on the road, but the family could not save the baby.
Divisional commissioner Jammu and Kashmir, Baseer Khan, ordered an inquiry after reports of denial of entry to a pregnant woman into Lal Ded Hospital came out.
"A news item has been posted on the social media which reveals that a woman from remote area of Kupwara district was forced to deliver on the roadside after doctors of Government LD Hospital, Srinagar, the largest maternity care hospital in the valley, did not allow her to stay in the hospital for a night and did not admit her on Thursday," Mr Khan said in the order.
The officer asked Principal/Dean, Government Medical College Srinagar to inquire into the matter and submit a report in two days.
"This news item needs a thorough enquiry to find out the factual position, so that appropriate action is taken against the concerned if found liable for such negligence/ act," the order read.
"You are accordingly directed to enquire into the matter and furnish the inquiry report along with your explicit comments within two days, treating the matter most urgent," it added.
The relatives and neighbours of the woman held a protest march at Press Enclave on Saturday, demanding action and doctors and hospital administration.
They also demanded establishment of a maternity care hospital in Kupwara and accommodation at Srinagar for patients from such far-flung areas.
The incident happened on Thursday night after the woman from remote Moore village of Kalaroos area of Kupwara developed labour pain at her home earlier during the day.
A family member of the woman said she was taken to Kalaroos hospital on a cot by a few people as the road was not motorable because of snow.
"The doctors there referred her to Kupwara hospital, from where she was further referred to Lal Ded Hospital in Srinagar," the family member said.
He said the woman was kept under observation for a few hours at Lal Ded hospital, after which the doctors there allegedly refused her an overnight stay at the hospital.
"We were told to leave the hospital. A doctor also misbehaved with us. After we left the hospital, she developed severe pain again and delivered a baby girl on the road. The new-born died immediately," the family member said.
Medical Superintendent, Lal Ded Hospital, Shabir Siddique said there were strict instructions to the doctors to keep patients from far-flung areas for an overnight stay at the hospital.
"We are ascertaining the facts. If there is any negligence, then we will take strict action," he added.
Meanwhile, politicians have demanded action against the doctors.
"I hope the state functionaries working under the command of @jandkgovernor take immediate action in this tragic case," National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah wrote on Twitter.
"Heart wrenching that a pregnant woman was turned away from a hospital which ironically is named after the great Kashmiri mystic saint Lal Ded . She later gave birth to a still born in frigid temperatures. Cannot even begin to fathom the pain & trauma the parents must feel," former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said on Twitter.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president G A Mir expressed serious concern over the incident and described it as shameful, deplorable and unfortunate.
Mr Mir expressed hope the Governor-led state administration would take strong notice of the incident, reform the health sector in the state and ensure that no such incident happens in the future.