In a surprising turn of events, Madhya Pradesh Health minister Dr Prabhuram Chaudhary on Saturday said the death of 11 infants in less than a week in a government-run hospital in Shahdol district was not due to medical negligence but added that infrastructure needed to be enhanced to prevent recurrence of such cases.
Over 11 infants died in the Shahdol district hospital while six others remain in critical condition. The deceased were aged between two days to seven months.
Facing criticism over the rising number of deaths, the health minister in a press briefing in Bhopal said that no one was guilty of any negligence as best possible treatment was given to the infants. Chaudhary’s statement was based on a probe report submitted by two experts who had visited the hospital to investigate the case.
The minister, however, said new infrastructure changes would be installed at the hospital to ensure such incidents aren’t repeated in future.
Door-to-Door surveys will be carried out in villages of Shahdol through Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM), ASHA workers and others to identify ailing kids and timely admission in hospitals will be ensured, the minister said adding antibiotic amoxicillin will be distributed at the village level.
“Health staff will be put under re-orientation in Shahdol and two additional ambulances have been provided”, he said.
“Four additional doctors will be deputed in the hospital, experts from Jabalpur medical college and AIIMS Bhopal will offer guidance to Shahdol hospital staff. A Special Newborn Care Units (SNCUs) ward with 20 beds will be installed at the Shahdol medical college to deal with the surge in numbers of infants,” said Chaudhary.
On the question of why the deaths took place, the minister listed reasons like premature births, birth asphyxia, pneumonia, septicaemia, meningitis and others. He denied linkages between the mortalities and malnutrition.
High infant mortalities is not new in Madhya Pradesh. Over 90 infants have died in Sagar districts in the circumstances similar to the Shahdol cases and the state has one of the highest infant mortality in the country.
Chowdhury countered the numbers stating that it is unfortunate that certain sections of children admitted to hospitals are unable to be saved. Still, efforts are being made to ensure all infants get discharged in healthy condition.
State Congress cornered the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government over the mortalities, “Shavraj’s fresh scheme, bring a life, return with the dead,” a post by the party’s official Twitter account said.
Madhya Pradesh Congress President and former chief minister Kamal Nath had ordered an enquiry and a team comprising of four MLAs arrived at Shahdol to investigate the matter.
Data on infant mortalities in the state found an alarming scenario concerning Shahdol district. Between April 1, 2020 and December 4, 2020, Madhya Pradesh saw 15,519 infants deaths, including 704 deaths from the Shahdol district alone. In the last financial year, the state reported over 27,000 infant deaths out of which 1,102 deaths were recorded in Shahdol division. Out of 1,039 infants born in Shahdol district hospital since April this year, 370 belonged to other nearby districts including some in bordering Chhattisgarh.