A new life
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It's 10.30 a.m. A nine-day-old baby with birth asphyxia has arrived from a remote Kupwara village. Dr Shafat Ahmad Tak and his team are busy trying to stabilise the baby. After half-an-hour, when they are satisfied with the progress, they put the baby on ventilator.
Six months ago, when hundreds of anguished parents came out on the roads to protest over the alarming death rate of newborn babies at the local GB Pant Hospital, the only children's hospital in the Valley, the government formed an inquiry committee. The inquiry report said more than 500 babies had died at the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) from January to May 2012. As anger brewed up over the deaths, the government suspended the medical superintendent and revamped NICU. Tak was made in charge of the unit where newborn babies from all parts of Kashmir are treated for various life-threatening ailments. He did his MBBS from Government Medical College Srinagar and his MD in paediatrics from Government Medical College, Jammu. Before joining here, he also worked for three years at the neonatology department of Sher-e-Kashnir Institute of Medical Sciences.
Ever since the revamp, there is a daily mortality meeting at 9.45 a.m., and Dr Shafat is first to arrive. "This meeting is attended by the medical superintendent, his deputies and all the unit heads. Since I am taking care of the unit, I have to brief my seniors on each case.''
After the meeting, Dr Tak rushes to his unit, wears his special uniform and is ready for the daily round along with his team of doctors. "We examine every patient minutely. At times, it takes five hours,'' he says. By the time he completes the round, it is already afternoon. "Inside the NICU, I take a sigh of relief when I see the condition of babies improving. If there is a death, it greatly perturbs me and my colleagues," he says.
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