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Infant deaths cause concern in Bengal

Second unexplained outbreak has bishop calling for action from government

Julian S Das, Kolkata

Julian S Das, Kolkata

Published: October 28, 2011 07:04 AM GMT

Updated: October 28, 2011 07:08 AM GMT

Infant deaths cause concern in Bengal
Rizia Bibi with her child at a government-run childcare hospital in Kolkata

The death of 18 infants in a government hospital has disturbed Church people in West Bengal state. The babies, all under six months old, died October 25-26 at a government medical school in the state capital of Kolkata. Bishop Cyprian Monis of Asansol said the Church is sad to hear of the death of so many children and it wants those responsible punished. He also urged the government to take responsibility for the deaths and take steps to avoid a recurrence. The deaths occurred in Doctor Bidhan Chandra Roy Postgraduate Institute of Pediatric Sciences, a premier medical school in the state. Dilip Pal, superintendent of the institute’s child-care hospital, says they receive more than 300 babies daily and it is hard to care for all of them. In June, 18 babies died in similar circumstances, forcing state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to order a probe. However, the report exonerated the institute. Pal admitted that the hospital lacked basic facilities to cater for so many babies, many on emergency basis. Bishop Monis said the Church can do very little to intervene in such cases since it also lacks structures and facilities. “We could create awareness about care of babies through our self-help groups in villages,” the prelate added. However, Divine Savior Sister Michael Thines disagreed. The Church should focus on crucial issues facing the state, instead of concentrating on projects, said the nun associated with Seva Kendra, Calcutta archdiocese’s social service center. Rizia Bibi, who left the hospital with her child after 16 days, said mostly junior doctors attend to cases. “The seniors are good, but they visit the babies only once a day,” said the Muslim woman who blamed the callousness of nurses for the crib deaths.

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