Asok Bhattacharya and Saman Pathak (left) at the NBMCH on Monday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Siliguri, April 21: Thirteen babies have died at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in the past seven days with parents alleging negligence by doctors and nurses and unhygienic conditions at the sick newborn care unit (SNCU) that is spreading infections.
According to the relatives of the babies, there are no senior doctors at the unit to attend to the children.
“Our baby girl was born on Thursday and admitted to the SNCU the same day. Doctors said she had some infection. There were no senior doctors, only junior doctors attended to the babies. I was asked to arrange for three units of blood and two units were given to my child. While she was being given the blood, it was oozing out of her mouth. My child died yesterday because of negligence by the doctors and nurses at the SNCU,” said Umesh Sharma, a resident of Gulma Tea Estate in Sukna.
Dipu Biswas, who lost his five-day-old son on Saturday, said: “My child was suffering from infection. The SNCU is overcrowded and babies have to share a bed.”
Poonam Sarkar Ghosh, from Kawakhali on the outskirts of Siliguri, said: “My eight-day-old daughter is at the SNCU for the past five days and doctors said she has some infection. When we enquired about the nature of infection, they did not give us much information. I am worried.”
Kiran Das, mother of an eight-day-old girl admitted to the SNCU with infection, said the obstetrics and gynaecology wards were also overcrowded. “Two patients share a bed in the gynaecology and obstetrics wards. The surroundings are unhygienic. Such a situation leads to infections among new mothers and infants. My child is admitted at the SNCU for past eight days but her condition has not improved. I am scared and want to take her to a private nursing home.”
NBMCH authorities admitted that there had been 13 infant deaths since April 14.
“There have been 13 infant deaths at the SNCU but it has not been established that the deaths are because of infection that is communicable. Of the 13 babies, one died of septicaemia, blood infection which results in multiple-organ failure, four died of sepsis, infection of lungs, stomach or any other part, one died of congenital heart diseases. The others had low birth weight and peri-natal asphyxia, lack of oxygen during delivery,” said Amerendranath Sarkar, NBMCH superintendent.
“Septicemia and sepsis are internal infections and not communicable. We will conduct swab tests of the infants at the SNCU to verify if they are suffering from infection which can be communicated,” he said. “There are 900 deliveries at the NBMCH and around 30 baby deaths each month. The current situation is little alarming but parents should not panic,” he added.
Thirty babies are admitted to the SNCU now and of them, 11 are critical, Sarkar said.
“The SNCU has 20 beds and 30 babies are there. There is acute bed shortage but we cannot refuse patients. We have informed Swasthya Bhawan and requested that the bed strength be increased,” he said. “I have started an internal inquiry into the allegations of absence of senior doctors and negligence of nurses.”
Today, CPM leader Asok Bhattacharya and the party’s Darjeeling Lok Sabha candidate Saman Pathak visited the SNCU and demanded a high-level inquiry into the deaths.