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Baby death trail leads to Medical

Another hospital, same story. Focus on infant deaths at government hospitals shifted from B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, where the superintendent on Friday admitted that the hospital “lacked basic facilities” and was overcrowded, leading to cross-infection and deaths among babies.

He becomes the second superintendent after Anup Mandal of B.C. Roy Hospital to admit such ills. The comments, coming within days of the government’s outrage over Mandal’s confessions to the media, point to the seriousness of the situation at Medical College.

This was stressed by patient relatives, some residents of the area and Trinamul Congress activists, who gheraoed superintendent Kusum K. Adhikari on Friday morning to protest the death of 16 babies in the past six days at the hospital’s Sishu Niwas and Eden Hospital’s Old Nursery ward. “The paediatric departments lack the infrastructure. The condition is chaotic, with no one to tend to the sick babies,” complained one of the protesters.

They were led by Nirmal Maji, secretary of Indian Medical Association’s Calcutta chapter, and local Trinamul councillor Partha Basu. The gherao continued for two hours from 11 am.

Superintendent Adhikari was challenged with information on the number of baby deaths. He asked one of his officials to bring the register from the Sishu Niwas and Old Nursery, situated in the Eden Hospital building, to ascertain the death figures.

From September 1 to 6, 14 babies had died at Sishu Niwas, of which 10 were critical infants born outside Medical College. Two babies had died at the 15-bed Old Nursery. In addition, there had been 10 stillbirths, “which cannot be attributed to problems at the hospital”, the super said.

He admitted to the absence of basic facilities and did not even know that three incubators at Sishu Niwas were not working. “Most of the children who died were admitted from outside and were in a critical condition,” he said, admitting that one nursery was closed for renovation.

Adhikari said the hospital had adequate doctors, nurses and staff. “While they are enough when the patient-bed ratio is correct, the problem begins when there is overcrowding. We have problems like irregular oxygen supply and a shortage of rectified spirit,” the superintendent said. “We have told the higher authorities several times about the problems.”

But overcrowding is the main problem, leading to infections like septicaemia. Calcutta Medical College and Hospital has 1,696 beds. Of them, 155 are for children.

“Sishu Niwas has 70 beds. But on Friday, there were 110 patients and their mothers. The Old Nursery has 15 beds but 25 patients. The babies and mothers are compelled to share beds,” Adhikari added.

nAnother report on Page 17

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