Ahmedabad infant deaths: Panel gives clean chit to hospital, says did its best, facilities all well

The committee set up by the Gujarat Health Department to probe 18 newborn deaths at the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad on Monday gave the hospital a clean chit, stating that it had “done its best in dealing with the nine cases”, and that the facilities there are in “good condition”.

The death of nine infants on Saturday at the hospital — the state’s biggest medical institution — had sparked protests, leading Chief Minister Vijay Rupani to direct an immediate investigation.

Of the nine infants who died, five were referred from other hospitals in the state and four were born in the hospital.

The probe committee comprises Dr Raghav Dixit, Deputy Director of Medical Education; Dr Nilesh Shah, gynaecologist and dean, Vadnagar Medical College; and Dr Himanshu Joshi, HoD, Paediatrics, Gandhinagar Medical College, and Health Commissioner Dr Jayanti Ravi, who addressed the media on Monday.

Dr Ravi, however, parried questions on why infants were being “referred” to the Civil hospital in Ahmedabad from places such as Himmatnagar, Mansa, Surendranagar, Viramgam and Lunavada, all of which claim to have good medical facilities and government hospital-colleges.

Dr Ravi said, “The main aim of the probe was to find whether there was any lapse at Civil Hospital in treating these nine children (who died on Saturday). On average, the hospital sees five or six newborn deaths every day, but nine is a high number. As far as our investigations go, the hospital has done its best in dealing with the nine cases.”

The committee members did not also have answers when asked whether mothers of the nine infants who died were part of any of the several government programmes dealing with nutrition and pregnant women.

The Gujarat government has a string of programmes to check Infant Mortality (IMR) and Maternal Mortality rates (MMR). One such programme, Chiranjeevi yojana, launched in 2005 in which the government ties up with private hospitals to ensure institutional deliveries, was replicated outside Gujarat and was decorated.

Civil Hospital records — accessed by The Indian Express — show that 478 infants were admitted in the Paediatrics ward in August — of them, 137 infants died. September had 480 admissions, and 149 deaths, and out of 446 admissions until October 30, the hospital recorded 150 deaths.

According to the Sample Registration System (SRS), 2016, released on September 1, Gujarat’s total Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is 30 out of 1000 live births. The national average is 34.

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