The horror of baby deaths returned to one of West Bengal’s biggest government-run hospitals where seven newborns died within 12 hours in a grim reminder of the state’s high infant mortality rate, as family members on Thursday alleged medical negligence.
The management of the Malda Medical College and Hospital confirmed the deaths but dismissed the accusations, though sources called attention to the lack of infrastructure with newborns at the overcrowded hospital sometimes squeezed two to a bed.
Over the past few years, MMCH has repeatedly hit the headlines over spates of infant deaths with the trend rising in winter.
“There are fewer nurses than are required in the ward,” said Sujita Sarkar, who lost her child. “My baby did not get the required attention.”
The families said some of the windowpanes in the ward were broken, allowing chilly winds to sweep the room while not enough warming equipment were available.
The institute’s vice-principal, Amit Da, though said most of babies were referred to the hospital very late and were too sick to save. Many of them were suffering from asphyxia, low-birth weight, malnutrition and other conditions.
“We tried our best to save the babies,” he said. “The immunity of the infants, who had low birth weight, was very little.”
According to government data, 31 among every 1,000 children in West Bengal die before crossing infancy, with the rate marginally lower than the India average of 40.
Last month, four staffers of the state-run Medical College and Hospital Kolkata were transferred and several others suspended following the death of two babies allegedly due to overheating in a warmer.
Experts highlighted the need for the government to improve rural healthcare, as people from remote regions were bringing their children to well-known hospitals already at death’s door.
A senior doctor at the Malda hospital said, “Only three of the babies were born at this hospital. The rest of the newborns were referred from other centres.”
Sources from MMCH told HT that the children’s ward only had 100 beds, but as many as 187 infants were receiving care on Thursday. At least 10-15 babies are being admitted every day.