Less than a month ago, it was reported that 60 children had died at a hospital in Uttar Pradesh, allegedly over a lack of oxygen supply.

The Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur said that 34 babies had died at the ICU. It was revealed 12 had died due to encephalitis, while the rest was due to unspecified causes.

However, according to local media, parents complained of shortage of oxygen supply in the state-run hospital. This had prompted the parents and care-givers to use self-inflating bags to help the sick children to breathe.

A private supplier was reported to have withdrawn its equipment due to outstanding hospital bills, leading to public anger over the country’s healthcare system in general.

Second in line: Another hospital being investigated, allegedly for the same reason

A second incident, involving another hospital, of a similar nature has recently been reported.

A total of 49 children had died at the new-born care unit of the Ram Manohar Lohia (Mahila) Hospital in Farrukhabad between 21 July and 20 August. This public hospital in Uttar Pradesh was also allegedly facing a shortage of oxygen supply due to unpaid bills.

Hospital records indicated 30 deaths at its Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) and 19 deaths due to stillborn during the specified period. Most of these recorded deaths were due to perinatal asphyxia.

The district’s chief medical superintendent, Dr Akhilesh Agarwal denied that there had been any lack of oxygen. He said that the hospital had saved 121 of the 145 infants who were admitted in critical condition after they were delivered elsewhere.

The Uttar Pradesh government has removed Dr Agarwal from the hospital, alongwith several high-ranking officials, with immediate effect. It had also set up a team of doctors to conduct a detailed technical inquiry into the matter.

Only one doctor attends to all neonatal cases

According to hospital staff members, there could be as many as 20 newborns in the SNCU on most days. The unit has no piped liquid oxygen supply and newborns are supplied with oxygen using concentrators and cylinders.

Only one doctor manages the cases in the 12 units of the SNCU and its adjoining seven-bed pediatric ward unit. This doctor will then cover round-the-clock emergency care and lives on campus. Should this doctor go on leave, another child expert from a neighboring hospital will be called in.

The hospital had so far provided details of the 30 deaths. Hospital authorities also pointed out that most of the deaths were due to the children’s weight, premature birth and delayed arrival in the hospital.

Principal Secretary (Health) Prashant Trivedi said that oxygen was in proper supply at the hospital. It is without any basis to blame shortage of oxygen, he remarked, adding that a team led by the Director General (Health) will be visiting the hospital for a detailed inquiry.

The exact cause will only be made known upon completion of investigation by the technical team. A police case had also been registered over the deaths, and further action will be taken as the investigation progresses. MIMS

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