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Church saddened by infant deaths at Indian state hospitals

Negligence of health departments blamed for 240 deaths in Rajasthan and Gujarat in December

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Church saddened by infant deaths at Indian state hospitals

Inadequate hospital facilities have been cited as a reason for infant deaths in India. (Photo: Vishnu Nair/unsplash)

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Church leaders in India have expressed dismay over reports that more than 240 infants died last month in Rajasthan and Gujarat states due to the negligence of their health departments.

Media reports say that over 110 children died in December in Rajasthan’s Kota district, while 134 died in Gujarat's Rajkot district.

“The news has saddened me and even now when I hear the reports I feel pain because we have been losing precious lives, gifts from God. Regardless of whose fault it may be, it is very unfortunate,” Bishop Oswald Lewis of Jaipur told ucanews.

“There is no point in the blame game now. The present government blames the previous one and vice versa. Reports of children dying during this period in Rajasthan are not new, but the state government has done very little to tackle it.

“Unless the government takes it seriously, things will not change. The entire health system has to be revamped, and there should be more funds. The Church is doing its part but it has limited access to the health sector due to legal and policy considerations.”

The bishop was speaking against the background of reports that the death toll in JK Lone Hospital in Rajasthan’s Kota district had reached 110 as of Jan. 5.

The state government appointed an inquiry panel that found that the infants had died from hypothermia. Its report said the children had shivered to death and there was not enough life-saving equipment.

Newborns optimally should have a body temperature of 36.5 degrees Celsius. Babies are usually kept on warmers which keep their body temperature stable. However, there was a shortage of functioning warmers in the hospital, causing the body temperature of the babies to drop.

The report also noted that 22 of the 28 nebulizers, 81 of the 111 infusion pumps and most of the monitoring equipment and pulse oxymeters were not working. The absence of an oxygen pipeline at the hospital made matters worse. Moreover, the intensive care unit had not been fumigated for months.

Meanwhile, in Gujarat’s Rajkot district, 134 children died at a government hospital last month. However, the causes of death have been attributed to malnutrition, diseases from birth, premature births and malnourishment among mothers.

Media reports claim that the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit does not have the capacity and necessary facilities to treat children weighing less than 2.5 kilograms.

According to official records, Rajkot recorded 1,235 infant deaths last year, while Jamnagar recorded 639. The state government points out that around 400 children are admitted to hospital every month, out of which 80-90 die from premature delivery and malnutrition at the time of birth.

“One of the main reasons for the deaths reported in these states is malnutrition among the children and lack of education among the expectant mothers,” Bishop Jose Chittooparambil of Rajkot told ucanews.

“Expectant mothers are not aware of the health scheme as well as the health facilities. Had the government taken more initiatives, the results would have been better.

“Rajkot district is quite big and fewer casualties were reported in the urban area. Unfortunately rural areas have a very hard time due to the negligence of the health department, which is a very sad thing to happen.” 

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