The specialised neonatal unit at the Malda district hospital on Thursday. Picture by Surajit Roy
Malda, Dec. 15: Two health workers were singed when an autoclave burst today at the specialised newborn unit of the district hospital here, a day before its inauguration.
Two hours before the incident, a four-member team led by the Malda chief medical officer of health, Swapan Jhariat, toured the 12-bed newborn care unit for sick babies.
Around 12.30pm, while the staff were trying to start the autoclave, that is used to sterilise medical equipment, it burst and scalded nurse Namita Mullick and technician Nabin Mondal. Sources at the hospital said they were both admitted to the burns unit.
The autoclave has been installed in a room adjacent to the new unit. Sources said the hospital had another autoclave to sterilise medical instruments and labware. In autoclaves, moist heat is used to destroy microbes under high pressure steam.
Women and child development minister Sabitri Mitra, who is scheduled to inaugurate the unit tomorrow, said over the phone from Calcutta that she had asked the director of health services to probe the incident.
“I had asked the director of health services about the blast. He said the manufacturer of the autoclave was being asked to find out what went wrong and send him a report. This incident, happening just ahead of the unit being commissioned, is not desirable. I have also asked the district magistrate to inquire into the incident and check the other equipment as well,” Sabitri said.
Sources at the hospital said Rs 3 crore was spent on the unit set up in a 1,000sqft air-conditioned room.
“The unit is equipped with 12 baby warmers, seven phototherapy lights for babies born with high bilirubin levels, six oxygen containers, six syringe pumps and three infusion pumps. The pumps are used to deliver medication in precise doses and at precise times. There are also six pulse oximeters to measure the oxygen level in the babies’ blood,” said a senior health official.
He said Rs 1 crore was spent to procure the equipment alone.
Hospital superintendent Himadri Kumar Anri said the unit had been set up to lower the mortality rate of newborns at the district hospital. “This unit will be for newborns and babies up to a month old. It has been set up to prevent baby deaths. Five doctors, 12 nurses, and four health workers will be on duty round the clock. All of them have been specially trained for the facility,” CMOH Jhariat said.
Asked how the new unit would function without an autoclave, Jhariat said: “Repairs are on at a priority basis. We are working overnight. We are hopeful that the autoclave will start functioning before the minister inaugurates the unit at 11am tomorrow.”
Earlier in the day, 160 temporary cleaning staff of the hospital struck work to protest the appointment of four cleaners for the baby unit. They, however, withdrew the agitation on request from the hospital authorities.
“We have engaged specially trained cleaning staff. They are casual staff and were recruited after undergoing training to man specialised units at SSKM Hospital in Calcutta. We had requested the striking cleaners to withdraw their agitation,” hospital superintendent Anri said.
Since November 8, 128 newborns have died at the district hospital.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had set up a taskforce led by paediatrician Tridib Banerjee to look into the causes of neonatal deaths. Banerjee had taken note of the poor infrastructure in Malda. Since then, efforts were made to upgrade the existing infrastructure.
The hospital now has six paediatricians, instead of three. Five new baby-warmers, too, had been procured for the paediatric ward.