UP, the apathy continues

Indian police are investigating the deaths of dozens of new-borns at a hospital in Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh. Forty-nine children died at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in a month..

Indian police are investigating the deaths of dozens of new-borns at a hospital in Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh. Forty-nine children died at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in a month, including at least 30 who are said to have died from "perinatal asphyxia". The condition is caused by reduced oxygen levels during childbirth.

Perinatal asphyxia

Perinatal asphyxia is the medical condition resulting from deprivation of oxygen to a new-born infant that lasts long enough during the birth process to cause physical harm, usually to the brain. Hypoxic damage can occur to most of the infant's organs (heart, lungs, liver, gut, kidneys), but brain damage is of most concern and perhaps the least likely to quickly or completely heal. In more pronounced cases, an infant will survive, but with damage to the brain manifested as either mental, such as developmental delay or intellectual disability, or physical, such as spasticity.

Two hospitals- 200 dead

12 August: News emerges that at least 60 children died in Baba Raghav Das hospital in Gorakhpur. Thirty died in just two days. Reports said there was a shortage of oxygen - which the state and hospital deny - but family members said they had to manually squeeze artificial bags to aid breathing. By 16 August, the death toll had risen to more than 100 children.

Initial reports suggested that the hospital's oxygen supply had been cut by a private supplier over unpaid bills of more than 6m rupees ($93,500; £72,500).

27-29 August: Another 60 children, including 31 infants, died at the same hospital. Officials said there was no oxygen shortage, but blamed a high rate of disease from the monsoon season.

4 September: Police begin the investigation into at least 30 of the 49 deaths at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in Farrukhabad.

Analysis

In August, at least 160 minors died at a Gorakhpur hospital, in the same state. Some of the deaths there were also allegedly caused by lack of oxygen. But senior government officials have denied that this was the case in either hospital.

In the most recent investigation, a government report blamed medical staff for 30 deaths, prompting the launch of a police investigation.

The Press Trust of India reports that those 30 died from an apparent lack of oxygen while in intensive care at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. Another 19 infants, who did not survive childbirth, were not part of the government report, the news agency said. All 49 deaths happened between 21 July and 20 August.

Police said that in the Farrukhabad case, the hospital "did not insert oxygen pipes [into infants' windpipes] after birth". The region is one the poorest in India and records hundreds of deaths of children due to various diseases, including encephalitis, every year.

Dr Akhilesh Agarwal, the district's chief medical superintendent, denied there had been any lack of oxygen. “The hospital saved 121 of the 145 infants admitted in critical condition, following their birth elsewhere”, he added. The rest died since their conditions were critical.

Assessment

As we said previously, there seems to be a total lack of empathy when it comes to dealing with the current issue and the lives of children. India’s health system ranks 112 among 190 countries; one doctor for 1,700 people; 21% of the world's burden of disease, worsened by poor basic health care. Our assessment is that while India has the fastest growing population, and an ambitious growth aspiration, it has always had a disproportionately small health budget. We believe, it is extremely important for the government and public authorities to take immediate actions to prevent even the death of a single child.

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Why the apathy?

 

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