Senior Health Department officials who visited SAT hospital on Monday, following media reports about the ‘huge number of newborn deaths' in the hospital, after examining all relevant hospital records in detail have clarified that there have only been 14 newborn deaths in the hospital in the past one year due to septicaemia (infection).

“There have been 385 newborn deaths in the hospital in the past one year from April 2011. However, these deaths are due to various reasons beyond human control, including severe congenital anomalies or low birth weight or prematurity. A total of 192 blood culture samples tested positive for septicaemia — 88 in the in-born nursery and 104 in the out-born nursery — but the number of deaths due to septicaemia are only 14,” N. Sreedhar, Additional Director of Health Services (Health and Family Welfare), told The Hindu.

Dr. Sreedhar said a detailed report had been submitted to the Director of Health Services. “There has been a misinformation campaign and it is pathetic that the media went to town without cross-checking the figures. The RTI report only says that 192 babies tested positive for microbial infection, meaning that the blood contained microbes at the time of testing. On what basis is the inference made that this infection is hospital-acquired,” Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said.

“The actual death rate in the newborn unit in SAT hospital is just 7.29 per cent. This is a mortality rate comparable to the rate in a tertiary care Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in any setting. Even when the total number of deaths (385) is compared against the total number of admissions in the newborn care unit in the year —which is a whopping 5,000 — the mortality rate is less than 10 per cent,” Dr. Sreedhar said.

He said that a line-list of all 385 new born deaths (names, addresses) and the reasons for death were being compiled.

Infection probability

All Medical Colleges are expected to have a high level of infection probability, given the huge number of patients that come to the hospital on a daily basis.

SAT has a special delivery room and a ward for delivering babies whose mothers might be having some blood-borne infection, where there are stringent infection-control protocols.

Disinfection and swabs for microbiological testing from various parts of the wards, theatre, and nursery are processes which are done regularly in SAT as per infection-control protocol, Mr. Sadanandan pointed out. “Now that so much uproar has been created, I have asked that the swabs for microbiological testing be analysed by an external agency as well,” he said.