The Pediatrics Department of JMCH, which is in question, has a capacity to accommodate 40 patients but the no. of patients admitted was 84.  Credit: EastMojo Image

Guwahati: As many as 15 infants have died over a course of six days in Assam’s Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH). The shocking incident came to light after Dr Shaurabh Borkotoky, superintendent, JMCH, informed the media about the deaths that took place between November 1-6. The medical college has also constituted a six-member committee headed by Prof Pranabjit Biswanath, Head of the Department of Pediatrics, to inquire into the causes leading to the death of the newborn babies.

The committee is scheduled to submit its report by Friday evening.

Although the hospital authorities are waiting for the inquiry report to ascertain the exact cause of such serial deaths, speaking to EastMojo, Nilutpal Bhattacharjee, the Deputy Superintendent, JMCH, said, “Preliminary investigation into the matter has revealed that all the 15 cases of infant deaths were ‘unbooked’ cases. The antenatal check-ups of the mothers of all the dead infants were done at some other hospitals, later they were referred to the medical college.”

When asked about the connection between the deaths and the antenatal check-ups done elsewhere, Dr Bhattacharjee pointed out, “When the cases are ‘unbooked’, the doctors looking into the cases are not much aware about the patient’s history, which is why the treatment may lag behind.”

However, a senior gynaecologist, practicing in a reputed government hospital, on condition of anonymity, pointed out, “The practice of females getting their ante-natal check-ups done by one doctor or hospital often end up getting their delivery done by some other doctor or another hospital altogether. And, it doesn’t really cause a problem.”

Dr Bhattacharjee further mentioned, “Majority of the cases were severely low-birth ones.” He also cited, “Massive influx of patients, particularly during the festive season, which led to a lot of pressure upon the doctors.” He, however, maintained that the quality and delivery of care to each patient admitted was not compromised due to the overload in the department.

The Pediatrics Department of JMCH, which is in question, has a capacity to accommodate 40 patients but the number of patients admitted at that time was 84.

When asked if the hospital authorities have taken some action to tackle the problem of huge number of patients rushing to the hospital every festive season, Dr. Bhattacharjee said, “We have submitted a requested demanding an increase in the capacity of the pediatrics department, particularly the ICU, as well as its manpower.

It must be mentioned here that Assam has for long been battling with the issue of high infant as well as Maternal Mortality Rates. Assam has been earning the dubious distinction of having recorded the highest Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), which is the number of deaths per 1,000 live births of mothers, for several years now. Assam’s MMR for the year 2014-16 stood at 237 against a national average of 130. Although the figure is less compared to 300 in 2011-13, but Assam still ranks first in so far as MMR is concerned. Similar is the case with Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), the number of deaths per 1,000 live births of children under one year of age. Assam has been ranking within the first three states for quite some time now, with the IMR standing at 44 against a national average of 34 in 2016.

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