With two more infant deaths in the past 24 hours, the crisis for the Omar Abdullah-led government deepened on Saturday. Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad too blamed the state government for failing to utilize Central assistance of Rs 65 crore for a children’s hospital.
The death toll among children, mainly infants, crossed the figure of 360 with two new deaths on Saturday.
As the news of deaths broke, Omar removed newly-appointed GB Pant Hospital’s medical superintendent, replacing him with a retired doctor Muneer Masoodi in the second major hospital reshuffle in 24 hours.
Outside the valley’s solitary children hospital, the scene was chaotic with the father and attendants of a dead kid blocking the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.
“Poor infrastructure killed by child,” said the victim’s father.
As pointed out by the Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar, recommendations made in 2010 to the government, the present hospital lacks basic infrastructure like ventilators and other diagnostic equipments. The hospital is miserably short on staff. The Intensive Care Unit is served by one only nurse.
The GMC had also suggested coming up with a tertiary care children hospital near Bemina as the G.B. Pant hospital has no space for expansion.
Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in Srinagar for a party meeting, blamed the present government for its failure to come up with a hospital despite release of funds by the Centre.
“When I was chief minister (from 2005-08) of the state, I earmarked 50 kannals (7 acres) of land near Hajj House for a 350-bed children’s hospital. Two year ago as Union health minister, I released Rs 65 crore for it,” said Azad, a senior Congress leader; the party is in coalition with the ruling National Conference in the state.
Ironically, the state medical education ministry is headed by Congress leader RS Chib.
Azad said, “Construction of hospital is a state subject and the government should have come up with the hospital by now.”
It’s shameful that kids are dying in the capital, he added.
During his surprise visit on Friday, Omar admitted “there was scope for improvement”. “Infant deaths proved a costly lesson. The minister has been asked to formulate a comprehensive plan for a 350-bed hospital,” said Omar.
But opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is gunning for Omar’s head over the issue. “He has criminal liability in the deaths. What he is doing is charade. He should take responsibility and resign,” said PDP president Mehbooba Mufti.
PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar alleged the CM was shifting ventilators from two busy hospitals to the G.B Pant hospital. “This is highly condemnable. What will patients do there?” said Akhtar adding, “the whole system has collapsed”.