The state government scheme for free treatment to poor, premature babies who needed special surgical intervention and intensive care treatment was discontinued as it was proving costly for the health department.
The scheme was started in mid- March 2014 under the National Rural Health Mission with an aim to decrease the child mortality rate by providing best neo-natal facilities.
The health department had tied up with two hospitals- Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) and Children’s Hospital, Kotkapura- for referral of such children.
The scheme was a boon for the poor as under the programme, poor babies needing specialised treatment could be referred to private hospitals for free treatment.
But now, with the scheme being discontinued in a hush-hush affair, poor babies and families are left in the lurch. One such newborn became a victim of official apathy on Friday at the Lord Mahavira Civil Hospital where the mother left the newborn in the hospital due to lack of money.
Dr Rajinder Gulati, paediatrician at the civil hospital said, “The condition of the newborn was not good and we asked the mother to take the child to a private hospital or to PGIMER, Chandigarh. But she refused to do so, citing lack of money as a reason and also left the newborn at the hospital. The newborn died on Friday morning. We have informed the police who will locate the mother of the deceased.”
Kanwal Massih, medical superintendent of CMCH, showed ignorance about the discontinuation of the scheme and said, “We were getting seriously-ill babies throughout the state government hospitals. I can’t tell the exact number of children received till now, but on an average, 15 to 20 such children came to CMCH every month. We provided them the best treatment.”
Hussan Lal, mission director of the National Health Mission, Punjab, said, “This was a pilot project for six months which we discontinued as it was proving costly to the department.”
He said, “An expert committee of PGIMER also suggested we discontinue the scheme and utilise the funds first to establish Special Newborn Care Units (SNCU) in the government hospitals as one is proposed in the Mother-Child Hospital in Ludhiana.”
He added, “After getting such units, we can think of reviving the scheme because then, the post-treatment care to newborns can be provided in government hospitals laced with modern equipments.”
Sources said another reason to discontinue the scheme was over-referral of kids to hospitals and less success rate. Sources claimed that during the scheme, 90 babies were referred to CMCH out of which, 30 died and many were discharged under LAMA (Left Against Medical Advice). When traced, the recovery of other treated children was also not satisfactory. The number of babies referred to Kotkapura hospital was said to be even higher.