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Subhendu Maiti and Sagarnil Mukherjee, Hindustan Times
Behrampore/Kolkata, October 29, 2011
In the third case of infant deaths in West Bengal this week, seven children died in the Jangipur sub-divisional hospital in Murshidabad district in the last 48 hours. Some others are reportedly critical. Twelve infants died at the BC Roy Hospital in Kolkata within 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday. The tragedy was repeated on Friday, when 12 infants died at the Burdwan medical College and Hospital (BMCH) between Wednesday and Thursday.

"All these babies were born outside any hospital (sic). So, proper care wasn't taken at birth. As a result they had very little immunity," said hospital superintendent Saswata Mondal.

In July, the same hospital had made headlines following 10 infant deaths in three days. Soon after, a health department team from Kolkata had suggested the number of beds be increased in the paediatric unit to avoid death due to infection.

Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad exonerated both BC Roy Hospital and BMCH, saying they were referral hospitals that treated terminally ill children. "These hospitals receive children in the most critical condition after doctors at district hospitals have given up. Doctors do their very best, but at times, it is not possible to save them."

West Bengal director of medical education Susanta Banerjee said deaths of infants would continue until the referral system was changed. He submitted his report on the 12 crib deaths in BMCH to chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday.

According to sources, Banerjee, who holds the health portfolio, is worried about infant deaths, and has sought reports from principal secretary of health Sanjoy Mitra by October 31 on how to modify the referral system.

(With inputs from New Delhi)