Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday said that the deaths of infants at a government hospital in Kota are being politicised by the BJP to divert attention from the anti-Citizenship Act protests raging across the country.
He emphasised that the number of infant deaths in the state is the least now as compared to the last 5-6 years, and that the state government is making efforts to reduce Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR).
A war of words broke out on social media between Gehlot and Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harshvardhan, with the latter using the hashtag #KotaTragedy and dispatching a “high-level team” to the Kota hospital to probe the matter.
On Thursday, Gehlot invited Harshvardhan to visit the hospital himself and personally assess the situation and clarify the situation for people who are “giving reaction mischievously, knowingly, unknowingly and also innocently”.
At least 100 infants have died at JK Lone government hospital over the past month, reminding the horror of Uttar Pradesh’s BRD Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur where 63 infants had died in just two days in August 2017. In all, more than 1,300 children died at the same hospital in that year.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Harshvardhan said: “I have just spoken to #Rajasthan CM Sh @ashokgehlot51 ji & assured him of all possible support to prevent further deaths in #KotaTragedy matter. A multi-disciplinary expert team including top paediatricians is being sent by @MoHFW_INDIA for gap analysis & quick measures to be taken.”
“The high-level team being despatched by @MoHFW_INDIA Includes experts from AIIMS Jodhpur, Health Finance & Regional Director, Health Services Jaipur. It will reach #Kota tomorrow. In my letter too to @ashokgehlot51 ji, I’ve offered all possible assistance to prevent any further deaths,” he added.
In response, Gehlot welcomed the central government’s team and also invited Union Health Minister to visit the hospital himself.
Gehlot tweeted: “I telephoned Central Health Minister @drharshvardhan ji and requested him to visit #Kota personally so that he can see the best of facilities and proper management by State Health Department and get himself apprised of the facts.”
“Harsh Vardhan ji is himself a doctor and if he visits the hospital in #Kota, it will also clarify the situation for people, who are giving reaction mischievously, knowingly, unknowingly and also innocently,” the Chief Minister added.
Gehlot pointed out that an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) facility for children was first established by the Congress government in 2003. Also, the ICU facility for infants at the Kota hospital was started by the Congress government in 2011.
“We also welcome the special team being sent by the central health ministry for the sake of improvement in healthcare facilities in the state. #NirogiRajasthan is a priority for us. Media is also welcome to present the facts on the ground without any pressure,” he said.
UP’s BRD Hospital Tragedy of 2017 & BJP leaders reaction
As many as 1,317 children had died at the BRD Medical College Hospital as of September 2, 2017. Between August 10-12, 63 children died in the hospital’s paedriatic ward after the hospital's piped oxygen supply ran out.
While PM Modi had called it a "natural calamity", UP Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh had said that such deaths are common in August.
The Yogi Adityanath-led BJP state government apparently did not do anything on the ground to rectify the situation.
Almost a year later, on June 11, 2018, Newsclick reported that a total of 907 children had died at the same hospital from January till June 4, 2018. Of them, 63 kids died due to encephalitis, while the others died due to various reasons.
It quoted sources revealing that the highest number of deaths (587) took place in the neonatalintensive care unit (NICU), while 320 children had died in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
The BRD hospital staff was too scared to come on record and point out any instances of malfunctioning at the hospital for fear of backlash from the Adityanath government.
But there was no hue and cry anywhere.
Kota incident: Most infants came in critical condition
A Rajasthan government three-member committee of doctors that was sent to investigate the 10 deaths on December 23 and 24 found that Kota's JK Lone Hospital is short of beds and its functioning needs improvement.
But the committee ruled that the 10 infants who died on the two days were given the right treatment and cleared the doctors there of any lapses. It also pointed out that eight out of the 10 infants who died had been referred from other hospitals in a critical condition.
“The state government panel found that the hospital was short of beds, functioning at 150 per cent of its capacity. The committee submitted that eight out of the 10 infants were referred from other hospitals in a critical condition and two were born at the hospital itself,” Rajasthan Medical Education Secretary Vaibhav Galriya has said.
“Due treatment was given to all of them. The committee had checked medical records. Whoever was to be put on ventilator, the required treatment was provided," he added.
Moreover, the 10 infants who died were at higher risk due to pre-term birth, he said.
He said instructions have been issued to check for infections at the hospital on a monthly basis instead of every three months earlier. Besides, directions have also been given to lay oxygen pipelines instead of using oxygen cylinders in the ICU.