Infant deaths return
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The crib deaths returned to the state government with 13 more infants dying in the last 48 hours at Malda Medical College and Hospital.
Senior officials of the state Health Department said six newborns died between Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday night, three babies died, while on Monday and Tuesday, a total of around 13 babies died. Babies were aged between 0-1 year.
Hospital authorities said that most of the babies died due to low birth weight and birth asphyxia (breathing trouble). They said eight babies were from neighbouring Bihar and Jharkhand, and six of them died even before being admitted to the hospital.
Health officials added that the inflow of patients at the district hospital has increased considerably, though infrastructure improvement has not been much. The neo-natal ward has not been revamped yet, though a proposal was made by the Health Department a month ago. Also, the sick newborn care unit (SNCU) is filled to capacity and because of lack of space, babies have to be kept on the floors. Inadequate number of Ryles' tubes and radiant warmers has added to the crisis.
It was found that most people rush to Malda District Hospital since it has been converted to a medical college. They hardly opt for sub-divisional hospitals like Chanchol and Kaliachak and Sinampur sub-centre as they lack proper critical-care facilities.
Officials, however, added that unless primary- and secondary-level health care units are revamped, crib deaths will continue. The need of the hour is to improve infrastructure at sub-divisional and district hospitals also by setting up sick newborn care units, they added.
Dr Uchal Bhadra, principal of Malda Medical College and Hospital, said all the babies who died were brought in critical condition, adding that they have been struggling to provide treatment to all with the limited infrastructure. There is need for around 100 Ryle's Tubes, which the hospital has asked the state Health Department for.
Experts are of the opinion that during winter there is a general tendency of increase in crib deaths as babies who are malnourished suffer from more breathing trouble in winter.
Dr Asit Biswas, spokesperson of Health Department, said a meeting has been convened with the CMO, who is monitoring the situation".
Significantly, the Trinamool Congress election manifesto had promised a four-tier healthcare infrastructure by revamping primary health centres, district hospitals, sub-divisional hospital and super specialty apex hospitals. But it was seen that 109 babies died in 2011 at Malda Medical College and Hospital, and 48 died in B C Roy in the month of December 2011 with the state government doing nothing exceot creating a task force.
Union Minister offers to send team
New Delhi: Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury has written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressing concern about the crib deaths at Malda hospital and offered to send a team of experts to the state to find out why so many babies have died in various hospitals in the state over the last few months. Sources in the ministry said that given the strained relations between the Congress and its former ally, the Trinamool, Chowdhury's letter has been delicately worded so as not to make the issue a political ego battle that could only serve to complicate matters. He is said to be monitoring the matter personally.
"There is a hospital in Farakka that is managed by the Water Resources Department. It is in a ramshackle state. I am trying to see whether the health ministry can take it over so as to help the locals. It is about 80 Km from Murshidabad and 50 Km from Malda so if that can be made functional, it would go a long way in making quality healthcare accessible to the locals," Chowdhury said.