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Lack of oxygen killed 14 of 49 children in Farrukhabad hospital, says report

The report says 14 of 30 children died only of peri-natal asphyxia, a condition where a child cannot breathe properly after birth and has to be immediately put on oxygen supply.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2017 00:34 IST
Haidar Naqvi
Haidar Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Farrukhabad
Farrukhabad infant deaths,Farrukhabad children,Farrukhabad tragedy
People protest at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia government hospital in Farrukhabad where doctors were on strike after an FIR was registered against them over the death of 49 children.(Manoj Yadav/HT Photo)

Lack of oxygen killed at least 14 of the 49 children who died at a government hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Farrukhabad last month , an official report of the institution’s top medical officer has said, contradicting the stand taken by the state administration.

The report of the chief medical superintendent of the women’s section of the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital noted that 14 out of 30 children who died between July 22 and August 20 at the sick newborn care unit (SNCU) perished only of peri-natal asphyxia – a condition where a child cannot breathe properly after birth and has to be immediately put on oxygen supply.

The report says another four of the 30 died because of peri-natal asphyxia along with other complications. Twelve others died of other reasons ranging from septicemia to premature birth. Hindustan Times has a copy of the report accessed through hospital sources.

Read more: Parents recount horror, say babies died for want of oxygen

Other than these 30 children, 19 more babies died at birth in the hospital during the same period.

“There could be several reasons for perinatal asphyxia or what be call a difficult birth, and these babies need oxygen support. In fact they might even need a ventilator,” says Dr Deepika Deka, professor, gynaecology and obstetrics department, New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

“Every hospital in its labour room must have adequate oxygen and the facility to ventilate in case of emergency.”

Officials said that this document became the basis for a report by the city magistrate, which indicted the hospital authorities for gross negligence. Within hours, the state government dismissed the magistrate’s report as “superficial” on Monday and insisted that the deaths weren’t due to an oxygen supply crisis.

This came at a time when chief minister Yogi Adityanath is facing a storm of criticism over a string of similar deaths at a government hospital in Gorakhpur roughly a month ago. The government has swept aside charges of negligence in both cases despite mounting attacks on the state’s poor health infrastructure.

Local officials point out to a crucial difference between the two cases. In the case of the Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur, it was alleged that a snag in oxygen supply caused the deaths. But in Farrukhabad, both the magistrate and parents of the newborns blame the doctors and hospital staff for being careless and not providing oxygen, which was available, to the children.

“This underlines gross negligence on the part of the hospital authorities and staff members,” said a district official who didn’t want to be named. “The government wrongly presumed the local report puts the blame on shortage of oxygen as was the case in Gorakhpur.” The official said the magistrate’s team had a doctor on board.

The SNCU is functioning with just one doctor on staff, as against a requirement of four.

Health department officials, however, continued to set aside charges that doctors didn’t give adequate oxygen to children. “There can be many reasons behind peri-natal asphyxia. A child can get asphyxiated in mother’s womb,” said a doctor, not willing to be identified.

“It would have been prudent for the inquiry team to consult the experts broadly rather than hurriedly reaching a conclusion and blaming the hospital for deaths,” he said.

First Published: Sep 05, 2017 20:40 IST