Health Minister writes to Mamata Banerjee over mounting toll

Ten infants have died in the Malda Medical College and Hospital (MMCH) in 24 hours, taking the toll to 62 for the month of November, according to senior officials of the West Bengal Health Department.

Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare and Congress MP A.H. Khan Chowdhury, who has written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said he expected her “cooperation in trying to improve the situation in government hospitals in West Bengal.”

“I have also informed her [Ms. Banerjee] that if she agrees we could send a team of experts from the Health Ministry to find out why so many deaths of infants have taken place in different government hospitals in West Bengal in recent times,” said a press release issued by the office of Mr. Khan Chowdhury.

State Health officials said 52 infants had died as of November 26.

Health department spokesperson Asit Biwas said there was “nothing alarming” about the crib deaths, which were due to asphyxia and septicaemia.

Pointing out that 28 infants have died between November 16 and 26, he said while 18 of them were neo-natal cases, nine of them were underweight — weighing below 1.5 kg.

MMCH principal Uchhal Bhadra said the number of infant deaths increases upon the onset of winter and a fall in temperature.

Stating that there is no negligence on the part of the hospital, he said its resources were being stretched owing to a huge number of admission of children referred from various other hospitals in the districts.

“On an average, we get 200 patients every day,” Dr. Bhadra said. He said another reason for the spread of infection among children was that parents flocked to the paediatric ward all through the day, making it tough for security personnel to keep a check.