Concerned at the death of 13 babies in the past 48 hours at the B.C. Roy Children's hospital in Kolkata, the Union Health Ministry on Thursday sought a detailed report from the State-government run hospital.

In June too, the hospital witnessed 18 crib deaths, provoking angry reactions from the parents and the public. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered an inquiry following the deaths. The hospital authorities said babies were being brought at a “very critical stage.”

Responding to queries from The Hindu, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the hospital was a referral facility where babies were brought from nearby districts, often in critical conditions. As such, India has a high neo-natal death rate of nine lakh a year. This means that babies less than a month-old were losing their battle for survival in large numbers. A number of reasons were responsible for such large number of neo-natal deaths annually, Mr. Azad said that low-birth weight, poor health of the mother, malnutrition and lack of proper medical attention at the district-level, delay in bringing babies to the referral hospital were often responsible for deaths. “In such conditions, babies are more susceptible to infection and often, unfortunately, lose their fight for survival.”

The Ministry would analyse the reasons after receiving a report. Efforts were made to improve facilities at the hospital, he added.