Families charge hospital staff with negligence; Mamata orders probe, promises action

The death of 19 children, most of them infants, within a period of 48 hours in the State-run Dr. B.C. Roy Postgraduate Institute of Paediatric Science here triggered protests and agitations amid allegations of negligence and misbehaviour on the part of the staff on Thursday. Distraught parents and family members broke down, some of them barging into the premises of the hospital with allegations of negligence and misbehaviour. Members of the hospital staff were heckled amid the confusion and shouting. The agitators also held up traffic on the road outside, before the police were brought in to bring the situation under control.

Hospital authorities claimed that the complaints received were mainly about the behaviour of the staff and not of negligence. Every child brought to the hospital had received treatment, they claimed.

While an internal enquiry into the incident has been ordered by the hospital authorities, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who herself holds additional charge of the Health portfolio, has ordered an enquiry, promising that action will be taken “from top to bottom if any negligence has occurred.”

“The committee will submit its report to me in 24 hours. It will comprise external doctors so that the true facts about the incident cannot be suppressed,” Ms. Banerjee said.

By evening, Ms. Banerjee informed journalists at the State Secretariat that several of the infants had severe stomach ailments; two of the children died of a congenital heart disease. She also said that eight of the 12 children who died on Wednesday were under-weight.

The 350-bed hospital is a tertiary health facility and often children are brought here at a very late stage. On average between five and six children die every day, she said.

“However, the matter has to be taken seriously,” she added. Hospital authorities clarified that a large number of children who came to the hospital were referred from other cities.