Hyderabad, Oct. 8: Over 4,000 babies have died in Andhra Pradesh’s hospitals, about half of them newborns in non-functional incubators, since an indefinite power employees’ strike began on Sunday morning, doctors’ associations said.
No figures were available from a state government virtually paralysed by striking employees and truant ministers from Seemandhra since July 31. Doctors’ bodies gave rough estimates of infant deaths by collating district-wise inputs from hospitals, but none were willing to be quoted.
In normal times, the state’s hospitals witness an average of 300-400 baby deaths daily —which means at least an additional 1,000 babies have died per day since the strike began.
“I appeal to protesters to let the hospitals function so that these little children don’t suffer,” said Prabhakar Reddy, father of a newborn, at Hyderabad’s Nilofuer Hospital.
Doctors and NGOs said the power crisis accounted for most of the additional deaths, and that the acute staff shortage at the hospitals because of the two-month-old anti-statehood strike was also to blame.
An Indian Medical Association spokesperson said several coastal and tribal-dominated districts were witnessing an outbreak of diseases among children aged one to three.
“Viral fever, dengue and chicken pox have taken a heavy toll in Visakhapatnam and Rajahmundry,” he said.
Sources in an association of government doctors said 520 babies had died in five Hyderabad hospitals — including a private clinic — since Sunday.
State health minister and anti-statehood agitator Kondru Murali Mohan, who had two months ago tendered his resignation, which has not been accepted, said: “It is unfair to blame the deaths on the agitation — baby deaths in government hospitals are common.”
But even he appeared stunned when told about the figures. Mohan has not been attending office these past 10 weeks.
One Hyderabad hospital’s authorities said they were spending Rs 22,000 per day on generators and had back-up left for just a few hours. With ACs not running, burns patients’ sufferings have increased.
Doctors have cancelled surgeries. “Medicines, blood in the blood bank, and blood-products are deteriorating during the long power cuts,” said Dr Suresh Goud of the AP Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association.
Chief minister Kiran Reddy said additional power was being bought from the western grid to meet the shortfall of over 7,000MW.
“Not another agitation!’’ has been the refrain among Hyderabad’s 3.7 lakh software workers, who are worried that projects will be transferred to their company offices in Bangalore or Pune if the agitation continues.
Calcuttan Priyanka Chowdhury, 22, just out of IIT Kharagpur and employed by a multinational, cursed her decision to pick Hyderabad ahead of Pune and Bangalore.
“I came to Hyderabad for its biryani and bindaas lifestyle but now am desperate to relocate,” she said.
According to a spokesperson for the Hyderabad Software Exporters Association, the power strike has hit the BPOs hard though “we are OK in the software services sector”.
IT offices have been renting diesel power packs at Rs 25,000 per day. “We have a backup for a maximum of 8 to 10 hours,” said an IT operator with 500 seats in Madhapur, the IT hub.
Hyderabad lacks the kind of Wi-Fi Internet infrastructure Bangalore or Pune has, so most employees cannot work from home.
The agitation has raised the prices of essentials in Hyderabad, there are reports of ATMs going on the blink, but the worst fear is that taps may soon run dry.
“We can supply water for just two more days and, in case the southern grid collapses (because of the power strike), there won’t be any water for the entire city,” said water board managing director J. Syamala Rao.