Many people gathered in front of Dr BC Roy Postgraduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences, Kolkata, on Friday morning protesting the alleged death of 15 newborns in the last 24 hours. They alleged that the deaths were due to medical negligence and demanded an inquiry into the incident.
The protesters dispersed only after the local police arrived at the scene.
Hospital authorities, however, placed the number of infant deaths at five.
“Five babies, all below one year of age, died at our hospital in the last 24 hours. They were brought here from different districts in a critical condition. The allegation that 15 babies died is false and highly exaggerated,” said Professor Dilip Pal, superintendent of the hospital.
“We have submitted a detailed report on the five deaths to the state health department. Dr Tridib Banerjee, advisor to the CM, is looking after the task force for child health care in the state,” he added.
Banerjee, for his part, echoed Pal’s contention.
“Five newborns have died,” he said. “The rest is rumour.”
The institute is no stranger to instances of crib deaths.
As many as 35 babies had died over five days in September 2013, while 13 newborns lost their lives over a period of 48 hours in October 2011. Sources say that, on an average, five to seven babies die in 24 hours at the hospital. State health authorities attribute the high infant mortality rate to the fact that they are usually brought in from remote places of Kolkata in a critical condition.
The relatives of the dead babies allege that they died in the absence of proper treatment. Hospital officials say that the pediatric ventilators at the hospital are inadequate for providing emergency support to the ailing babies.
“It’s true that our hospital does not have adequate ventilators for treating the babies. We did procure three ventilators from SSKM Hospital, but they are being used to treat children suffering from swine flu. We do not even have cardiac monitors or a blood bank for emergency treatment,” a senior doctor said.
However, he insisted that the five dead babies were brought to the institute in a critical condition. “We have spoken to the health department about it,” the doctor added.