A day after two newborns' deaths and three stillbirths at the newly-opened Mother Child Hospital attached to the Lord Mahavira Civil Hospital here, Punjab health minister Surjit Kumar Jyani on Monday suspended gynaecologist Dr Alka Mittal and transferred Dr RK Karkara, senior medical officer (SMO).
The minister cited the doctor's absence from duty as the reason for the action initiated against her.
Jyani also formed a probe committee led by Ludhiana deputy commissioner Rajat Agarwal to look into all aspects of the case. He gave the DC seven days to investigate and submit a report on the incident.
Seeking an apology for the unfortunate incident, Jyani stated that soon after getting the inquiry report, compensation of Rs 1 lakh each would be given to the families that had lost their babies due to the health department's mistake.
He added that Dr Mittal had been chargesheeted nearly a week ago for being absent from the hospital. However, she had the audacity to remain absent again, Jyani said.
"This behaviour will not be tolerated. If she is found guilty in the inquiry, her services could be terminated," he said, adding that besides the doctor, nurses, ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers or any other staff found guilty of laxity will face strict action.
Meanwhile, the two-member preliminary probe committee comprising Vikas Garg, special secretary, health, and Dr Jatinder Kaur, deputy director, health, reached the Mother Child Hospital at 8am on Monday. The team was accompanied by civil surgeon Dr Subhash Batta. Nurses as well as doctors on duty were called one by one by the panel.
Dr Jatinder Kaur, who is also a gynaecologist, said there were three cases of stillbirth, whereas in the other two cases, babies could have been saved had the gynaecologist been present on duty.
On being asked about the handling of normal deliveries by nurses in the absence of doctors, Garg and Dr Jatinder Kaur said such deliveries could be attended by trained nurses, but the doctor should be present on call.
A case of stillbirth was reported at the hospital on Monday. Rekha, a resident of Tibba Road, underwent a Caesarean operation on Monday and delivered a stillborn.
Dr Jatinder Kaur, who was present at the hospital, said, "The case was very complicated and the patient was bleeding profusely. Thus, to save the mother's life, doctors had to perform a Caesarean section."
On why the Mother Child Hospital had been inaugurated despite inadequate facilities as well as doctors and other staff, Jyani said, "Necessary equipment and facilities will be brought to the hospital within 15 days. Staff will be recruited, but the present staff also meets the requirement of the hospital and there is not much shortage."
Requesting anonymity, a senior employee at the hospital stated that despite repeated reminders, the Punjab health and family welfare ministry had failed to provide adequate staff, including doctors, staff nurses and paramedical staff in the civil hospital.
"There was no need to construct a separate hospital. Instead, funds for the purpose could have been used for upgrading the existing hospital and creating a fund to recruit new staff and pay their salaries," the employee added