Criminal lapses in crib care

100 babies dead in two months at MGM hospital

By Kumud Jenamani in Jamshedpur
  • Published 28.08.17
The paediatric wing of MGM hospital in Jamshedpur.
Picture by Animesh Sengupta

Jamshedpur, Aug. 27: More than 100 infants - many of them newborns - have died at MGM Medical College and Hospital in Jharkhand in July-August and although a state-level probe has denied negligence, insiders have indicated that baby care is far from satisfactory at this government-run facility.

The hospital in Sakchi area of the steel city boasts neonatal and postnatal intensive care units like any other dependable heal hub. But, according to some medical staff, these are poorly equipped.

Of the total six incubators (enclosed apparatus in which premature or unusually small babies are kept so that they can be provided a controlled and protective environment), barely four are functional at MGM and the hospital authorities regularly commit the crime of cramming them with babies.

"One incubator is meant for one preemie (premature baby) or one unusually small and underweight newborn. But here (at MGM hospital), they keep as many as three babies in the same incubator. This increases the chance of infections manifold and can even cause the death of a newborn," said a member of the medical staff at the paediatric wing.

Another source said the paediatric department had a six-bed enclosure with ventilator facility. But, two ventilators are defunct.

Hospital records suggest 546 infants, including 141 newborns, were admitted to MGM in July. Of these 60 (52 newborns) died. In August so far, 470 (116 newborns) have been admitted. The toll is 41 (33 newborns) till date.

The 60 baby deaths in July prompted Jharkhand Human Rights Conference, city-based rights outfit, to demand a high-level probe. The health department sent a four-member team to MGM hospital only last Friday.

The team - headed by director-in-chief (health) Dr Sumant Mishra and comprising director (medical education) A.N. Mishra, regional deputy director (Kolhan) H.S. Barwar and East Singhbhum civil surgeon K.C. Munda - conceded that 60 babies had died at the state-run hospital in a month, but insisted there was no negligence.

"Most of the infants died because of malnutrition. They were admitted to MGM after their births in other hospitals in Kolhan like Chaibasa and Seraikela, and also in Bengal and Odisha," said civil surgeon Munda.

The probe team, which has left for Ranchi and is expected to submit its report to the health department soon, categorically ruled out death owing to lack of oxygen like it happened at Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur, UP, where at least 30 children died between August 10 and 11 and more than 70 in a week.

Superintendent of MGM Bhartendu Bhushan claimed a greater number of newborns with postnatal complications were admitted to the hospital in July. "Of the 60 dead, 12 babies were born at our hospital. They died due to postnatal complications as well as malnutrition while the remaining 48 were referred cases."

Bhushan stressed that most of the 60 dead babies were underweight. "A newborn should at least weigh 2.5kg. But, these babies weighed between 700gm and 1.5kg. Babies less than 28 days old were in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and others at postnatal intensive care unit (PICU). We tried our best," he said.

Paediatrician and former doctor of Tata Motors Hospital S. Bhattacharjee said babies with low birth weight (less than 2kg) and very low birth weight (less than 1kg) was not uncommon anywhere. "A high care nursery is required to nurture such newborns, which MGM hospital probably lacks," he added.

Former Jamshedpur MP and national Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar has demanded a fresh probe into the baby deaths. "So many babies dying is unfortunate. The government, besides the hospital, should be held responsible for these deaths even if they took place because of malnutrition," he said.

President of Jharkhand Human Rights Conference Manoj Mishra said they had demanded a CBI inquiry or judicial probe into the deaths.