Upset with the turn of events, angry parents of the children, including those under treatment, accosted Odisha Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Naik for narrating their woes before visiting media persons
Odisha Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Naik made a surprise visit to Sardar Vallabhbhai Post Graduate Institute of Paediatrics, also known as Sishu Bhawan, at Cuttack where 51 infants have died in the last few days due to medical negligence.
Upset with the turn of events, angry parents of the children, including those under treatment, accosted Odisha Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Naik for narrating their woes before visiting media persons.
Informed sources tell Moneylife that there are several political dimensions to the issue, including a major, orchestrated cover up. The health minister, AS Nayak, they allege, is disinterested in the health portfolio, but is politically important to his party and hence being protected “at the highest level”. This, they say, is evident from the swift inquiry conducted by the Odisha Government, which appears to have absolved everybody from blame. That is why he is untouched by two major tragedies, including dozens of deaths a few months ago because of hepatitis. Those in the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) who are seriously unhappy at the government’s callous attitude to the tragic deaths say they are helpless and can only continue keep up the pressure.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Odisha has decided to gherao all the 314 blocks on 2nd September to protest the "state government's failure to provide adequate health facilities to the infants resulting in spate of deaths" in the Sishu Bhawan.
Over 5,900 infants have died in the referral hospital while undergoing treatment during the last five years. As per the health department report, 3,869 infant have died in out-patient department (OPD), while 2,034 have died in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) between 2010 and 2015. As per the health department report, 407 infants have died in both ICU and OPD in the last three months. Five of the deaths occurred in the new born wards and the parents of all these children are blaming it on the doctors and their medical negligence that led to this drastic situation.
The hospital has a dearth of doctors now and so it is not being maintained properly. It is observed that out of the 55 sanctioned posts of resident doctors, only 20 were filled.
A central government team has submitted its report to the Health Ministry on Monday highlighting severe infrastructural lapses, staff shortage as well as hygiene issues as the contributory factors for the deaths. It has also highlighted absence of a "robust infection surveillance system" in the hospital, lack of higher antibiotics and life-saving drugs and shortage of essential equipment like infusion pumps and pulse oximeters.
"Only 40% of the children were admitted to the Intensive Care Units (ICU). In most cases, there was a delay of more than 4-5 hours due to non-availability of beds or other reasons. As far as treatment is concerned, in majority of the cases, the treatment was appropriate but monitoring both by doctors and nurses was inadequate," said a senior official, who was part of the seven-member team that visited the tertiary care hospital in Cuttack.
The Team Members also went through the case sheets of all the children who expired between 21/8- 26/8 and physically went round the wards, ICU wards and the lab facilities.
According to one of the members, the hospital "hardly has any documentation of consultants' advice on the case sheets though they might have seen the patients. The lab reports in many cases were also not up to date".
The central government team has also made some recommendations to restore the credibility of the hospital. This includes mobilisation of senior residents to strengthen the current management and strict monitoring of sick children, round the clock availability of lab facilities for emergency investigations etc.
The central government team, which visited the State include specialists from Lady Hardinge Medical College, RML Hospital and the Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi and the team was also assisted by an Assistant Professor from AIIMS Bhubaneshwar.
“On average, the 416-bed facility receives at least 450 children daily from across Odisha and neighbouring states -- at least 50 requiring intensive care. Most of the children who died in the past days suffered from birth asphyxia -- when a baby does not receive enough oxygen at birth. Other cases involved neonatal sepsis, a blood infection that occurs in infants younger than 90 days,” says a report from CNN.