The paediatric ward of the Malda district hospital. Picture by Surajit Roy
Malda, Jan. 18: Eleven babies have died in the district hospital here in the past 36 hours with some parents alleging that senior doctors were on leave at the time their children were battling for life.
The charge has been denied by the authorities of the Malda District Hospital which has been recently upgraded to a medical college. The hospital said all the babies had been brought in a critical state and most of them were born premature and underweight.
Eight babies had died between January 16 and 17. Three babies died this morning.
Sultan Sheikh, who lost his daughter, said he had admitted his wife and newborn at 3pm on Tuesday.
“The nurses on duty said the condition of the baby was critical and that it needed to be admitted to the special baby care unit. I went to the superintendent, but neither he nor his deputy were present. We were then asked to go to the principal of the medical college, but we were told that he and his assistant were also on leave. Our daughter died around 11pm,” said Sultan Sheikh, whose wife had given birth at home in Kaliachak, 20km away.
The acting superintendent of the hospital, Subrata Som, said: “Just because the principal and a couple of other administrators were absent does not mean that the hospital had stopped functioning or that patients were not getting treatment. The hospital was functioning like normal.”
The district hospital here has four doctors for the SNCU, besides, eight other child specialists.
Additional superintendent of the hospital Samaul Mondol said all the 15 beds at the Sick Newborn Care Unit or the special baby care centre were occupied. Three of the babies who died had been admitted to the SNCU.
“If beds were available, more babies would have definitely been admitted to the SNCU. But all the babies, except three that were two to three months old, were premature newborns and grossly underweight. The doctors did not lack dedication. The babies were too critical,” Mondol said. He said minor girls were being admitted to the hospital for delivery.
“This morning, a 14-year-old girl from Kaliachak, was admitted. She is into her eighth month of pregnancy. The baby she is carrying will be born grossly underweight. What will the doctors do if the baby does not survive,” he said.
Reacting to the baby deaths, Tridib Banerjee, chairman of the “high-level task force for mother and child care” set up by the chief minister, said: “I spoke to the doctors at 10.30pm yesterday. They reported each case in detail. That wouldn't have been possible if they hadn’t been in the hospital and checked the patients.”
In November, a spate of crib deaths had hit the hospital and 11 babies had died in a day.