Purulia baby deaths: Central team set to conduct inquiry

Following the death of 15 infants, including a few newborns, in the state-run Deben Mahato Hospital here, a concerned Union health ministry has decided to send a team of experts to ascertain what happened. Earlier, soon after the deaths were reported, the district administration had ordered an inquiry into them.

Most of the infants, who died in the government hospital here, were in the age group of 0-11 months. While eight deaths were reported on Friday, three infants died on Saturday and two on Sunday. Another two died on Monday, taking the toll to 15.

According to the hospital authorities, two newborns died due to anencephaly, a defect in the neural tube, which prevents the normal development of the brain and the bones of the skull, one due to meningitis and the others due to complications such as low birth weight, malnutrition and so on.

Most victims had a low birth weight and were brought to the hospital from the villages.

Incidentally, this hospital is the first in the state to be equipped with a neonatal care unit for sick newborns.

The Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) was established in 2003 through a partnership with the state health and family welfare department, the administration, the Society for Applied Studies and Unicef.

“Most of the infants admitted here are referred from blocklevel hospitals and there is a heavy rush of patients to this hospital,” said Nilanjana Sen, the superintendent of the district hospital. She added that the hospital was facing difficulty in treating patients as the neonatal unit has only 14 beds, which need to be increased as everyday 15-20 infants in a serious condition are referred to the hospital from block-level hospitals.

Reacting to reports of the deaths, district magistrate Gulam Ansari said, “The deaths are alarming. I have asked the CMOH to inquire into them and submit a report to me. We will take steps accordingly.”

The spate of infant deaths reported here last week came a few days after the 14 deaths reported from Malda.Hospital authorities also said that most of the babies were premature and suffering from malnutrition.

Sources said there is need for better infrastructure, more beds and specialists.

When asked about the arrival of the team, the district magistrate said they did not know when yet.


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