Twenty-two babies died at Kolkata's B C Roy Hospital in the first week of November, just in 72 hours. Officials say the deaths were "a coincidence" and "not alarming at all". Four to seven deaths a day is a "routine affair" at this only facility in eastern India, which deals with critical child illness, they say.
Twelve children, all less than a month old, died due to reasons relating to premature birth, while the rest were suffering from advanced stages of meningitis and encephalitis. There was no way they could have been saved, says the state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra. Certainly not when the 200-bed referral hospital has about 400 patients on any given day and two to three children have to share a single bed; when none of the hospital incubators work and it lacks basic infrastructures like ventilators, pulse and heart rate monitors, equipment to measure blood gas and even trained nurses.
The incident is a repeat of 2002, when 31 babies died at the hospital within two days. Following the 2002 deaths, the state government had doled out Rs 1.8 crore to improve basic facilities at the hospital. Cricketer Sourav Ganguly, who hails from Kolkata, had also raised Rs 72 lakh for it in 2003. But conditions at the hospital have not improved in these years. Terrified parents have started shifting their ailing infants from the hospital, while the state government is busy washing blood off its hands and the opposition is cashing in with its usual round of loud protests and dharnas outside the hospital.
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