Safest-birth promise: state fails to deliver

The death of a newborn and his mother here has highlighted the grave condition of the government health facilities, particularly the district hospital.

On the evening of February 10, a pregnant Paramjit Kaur, 30, had reached the hospital for the delivery of her first child, and on Friday, she died there along with her male infant.

The child died because he needed an incubator to survive and the Mansa Civil Hospital, which receives a number of childbirth cases every day, had none. The mother, who had to deliver through surgery, died of mysterious reason, later.

The victims’ family has blamed doctors, who have dumped the responsibility on the patient. The district health department felt no need to inquire into the matter and so made no investigation team.

Around a month ago, Paramjit Kaur, wife of Boota Singh of Haryana’s Rohn village, had reached her paternal home at Lehri village of Bathinda district. Her father, Gurcharan Singh, took her to the district hospital of Mansa, which is nearest to Lehri.

“After minor operation for delivery, the child was given to us to be put in an incubator in a private hospital nearby. We carried the child there in our hands but he was no more after a while,” said Paramjit’s cousin Baljit Singh, who carried the child to the private hospital.

“We had taken our daughter to the hospital at Surat village first, but since the doctors there had delayed the delivery, we brought her to Mansa,” said Paramjit’s father, Gurcharan Singh.

“The doctors were quick with assisting delivery but the hospital had no incubator for the child. Later, the mother also died because of unknown reason. We want action taken against the doctors.”

Civil surgeon Dr Baldev Singh Sahota defended his team. “The child was dead already when the patient was admitted,” he said. “The case was complicated, as the patient had first gone for delivery to some midwives in a village. We did not initiate any inquiry because the doctors are innocent.”

“The patient was brought to us in emergency,” said gynaecologist Dr Deepika. “At that time, we could not have referred her to a higher institute. For humanitarian reason, we accepted the case and assisted the delivery. There is no incubator in our hospital so the guardians took the child to some private hospital where he later died.”

Experts needed
Most primary and community health centres in Mansa and Bathinda district are short of gynaecologists. Mansa has only four, of which two are posted at Budhlada subdivisional hospital and one each at the Khyala community health centre and the district hospital. The posts of gynaecologists to be recruited by state government are vacant in Mansa, which received a bulk of delivery cases. The lone gynaecologist at Mansa was appointed under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

“A third of the posts of doctor are vacant in the district and that leads to work overload,” said Dr Baldev Singh Sahota, civil surgeon of Mansa. “Two posts of gynaecologist at the Mansa Civil Hospital are vacant, and the lone gynaecologist was posted under the NRHM.”

Previous lapses
It is not the first case where a pregnant women or the newborn had to suffer because of the state of government-run hospitals. In May 2012, the newborn of Pal Kaur of Jhunir died at the Mansa Civil Hospital, and the district family planning officer Dr Harbhajan Singh is yet to complete the inquiry into the allegation of negligence against doctors and the paramedical team.
In July last year, a newborn girl died at the government hospital in Jalandhar after doctors took her off the incubator because her parents could not pay Rs 200.

Is this ‘safest’?
The two deaths come within days of the state government’s claiming Punjab to be the “safest place for childbirth in the country”, referring to the union health ministry performance report that declared some states, including Punjab, the best-performing states for child survival.

The performance report was based on parameters that included reproductive age, pregnancy care, childbirth, and post-natal maternal and newborn care. The results were based on the analysis of data gathered through the health management information system between April and September 2012.


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