The Union health ministry on Thursday asked a four-member medical panel to probe an unusual and still unexplained spike in death rates among children admitted to a government-run hospital in Kota, Rajasthan.
The ministry has asked the panel to join the state government in carrying out a “gap analysis” of human resources and equipment, clinical protocols and paediatric services at JK Lone Hospital where around 100 children died in December 2019.
The panel members, who will visit JK Lone Hospital and the associated Kota Medical College on January 3 with state health officials, have been asked to submit a detailed report.
The ministry said data on special newborn care units from the National Health Mission and the state government had indicated a higher mortality rate of 20.2 per cent at JK Lone Hospital in 2019 compared to two preceding years — 14.3 per cent in 2018 and 4.3 per cent in 2017.
The child deaths have triggered a political controversy with a BJP parliamentary team comprising MPs Locket Chatterjee, Kanta Kardam and Jaskaur Meena visiting the hospital earlier this week and expressing concern about its infrastructure.
According to a PTI report on Wednesday, the MPs had said they had found two to three children on single beds and that the hospital did not have sufficient nurses. The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has also served a notice to the Congress government in the state.
The ministry-appointed panel members include Kuldeep Singh, head of paediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Jodhpur; Deepak Saxena, senior regional director for health in Rajasthan; Arun Singh, professor of neonatology at AIIMS, Jodhpur; and Himanshu Bhushan, an advisor to the Union health ministry.
The panel has been asked to develop a joint action plan based on its gap analysis to provide required technical and financial support to the Kota Medical College.
Health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday that he had spoken with Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and assured him of all possible support. The minister said he had requested Gehlot to “assess the situation and take proactive steps to avoid these preventable child deaths”.