'Infant deaths at Kashmir hospital were avoidable'
Finally, chief minister Omar Abdullah has a reason to smile: Srinagar's children's hospital, which earned a sobriquet of deathbed for kids this year, is turning around with around 50% dip in mortality rate.
From as high as 16% mortality rate in February among neonatal babies, between one to 30 days, the month of July progressively registered only 8.63% mortality despite registering around 440 neonates, according to the latest data accessed by the Hindustan Times.
The July figures are the lowest death rate since January this year.
The GB Pant Children's Hospital, lone pediatrics hospital, registered unprecedented deaths of more than 310 kids from January to May, hitting newspaper headlines in India and abroad.
Subsequently, it sparked street protests, and reprimand from the State Human Rights Commission, which forced Omar to oversee the situation himself.
Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad too toured the hospital and expressed concern over under-utilization of funds.
Under pressure, the chief minister shunted the then medical superintendent Javid Chawdhry and reinstated a retired doctor Muneer Masoodi on May 19. Masoodi reshuffled and revamped hospital administration to improve accountability.
But it seems Omar has a lot to answer even now. If there is a turnaround in mortality rate, were these deaths avoidable?
"Yes, a significant number of deaths was avoidable…We will try to reduce mortality rate further but not beyond a point," said deputy medical superintendent Dr Muhammad Salim Khan.
Interestingly, it's was not augmentation of infrastructure but better management that saved lives of infants.
"Accountability, positive role of stakeholders and punctuality has brought down mortality rate. Hygiene and regulating attendants rush also helped a lot," said Khan.
The hospital has started daily meeting on mortalities and augmented healthcare with installation of life-saving equipment like baby warmers.
All babies are in the process of getting tagged now to dispel fear among parents of getting exchanged, aimed at reducing attendants rush.
The hospital administration claims that mortality rate has come down in all the areas of causes of deaths of neonatal babies like asphyxia, sepsis, broncho-pneumonia and encephalitis.
The chief minister constituted one-man commission report filed by Dr Showkat Ali Zarfar recently had also pointed out mismanagement of affairs by former medical superintendent. It also questioned the figures of the hospital medical department.
In fact, after the media outcry in March, the mortality rate for April showed a sudden dip to 10.72%.
The commission report, however, is facing a legal wrangle after former medical superintendent questioned the constitution of the commission and its functioning and approached the high court.
The commission had blamed internal bickering too for deaths, putting mortality rate among neonates at 35.1% from January to May.
Changes made by Dr Muneer Masoodi:
1) More beds for emergency
2) Improved hygiene system with first hand sanitizer at neonates' ICU
3) Punctuality, discouraging sub-standard drugs, accountability
4) Installation of CPAP ventilator system, warmers,
5) Restored all dysfunctional 96 bathrooms
6) Sealing two pharmacy shops after negative reports