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Infant deaths at Kota hospital: Centre to send high-level team on Friday

NEW DELHI: The Centre will send a high-level team comprising experts from AIIMS, Jodhpur and health economists to a government hospital in Rajasthan’s Kota, where 100 infants died in December, to assess the infrastructural gaps and measures to be taken to prevent further deaths.

The health economists will look into the gaps in the infrastructure of the JK Lon hospital to ascertain how much funds will be required for strengthening it.

“The high-level team being despatched by @MoHFW_INDIA incl experts from AIIMS Jodhpur, Health Finance & Regional Director, Health Services Jaipur. It will reach #Kota tomorrow. In my letter too to @ashokgehlot51 ji, I’ve offered all possible assistance to prevent any further deaths (sic),” Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a tweet on Thursday.

The team of experts will carry out a gap analysis, along with state government officials, in terms of clinical protocols, service delivery, manpower availability and equipment for maternal, newborn and paediatric care services at the hospital.

“They will develop a joint action plan, based on gap analysis, for providing required technical and financial support to Kota Medical College through National Health Mission and state Medical Education Department.

“The team members will visit JK Lon Hospital and Medical College, Kota along with state government officials from January 3 and submit a detailed report,” a statement issued by the health ministry said.

Vardhan has also written to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, assuring him of all assistance and urging for measures to stop the deaths of children at the hospital.

“We are ready to provide any technical help or assistance. Let us ensure no child succumbs to preventable causes or due to lack of health system capacity,” he has written in his letter to Gehlot.

In the letter, Vardhan stated that while “it is heartening to note that Rajasthan is persistently showing significant decline in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) for the last four years, available information from Special Newborn Care Units (SNCU) under the National Health Mission, and the state government have showed higher mortality rate of 20.2 per cent in JK Lon Hospital during 2019 in comparison to the preceding two years (Year 2018 = 14.3 pc; Year 2017=4.3 pc)”.

Further, the Union health minister has requested Gehlot to “assess the situation and take proactive steps to avoid these preventable child deaths”.

“We, from Government of India, are ready to provide any technical assistance in this matter. We look forward to your continued support and cooperation for improving child survival in the country, so as to ensure that no child succumbs to preventable causes or due to lack of our health system capacity,” the statement said.

According to Union health ministry officials, a preliminary probe has suggested that over 70 per cent of important equipment, including infusion pumps, warmers, oxymeters, nebulisers, meant for newborns, were not in a working condition at the JK Lon hospital and there was a paucity of staff in the paediatrics department.

A recent review also revealed that the mortality rate at the hospital was 20.2 per cent in 2019, as against the 14.3 per cent in the preceding two years, an official said, adding that this meant one in five infants admitted to the hospital last year died from preventable causes.

The ministry was yet to receive a formal report from the state in the matter, the official said.

Besides, another committee also pointed out that the deaths could be due to a lack of oxygen pipelines in the hospital and also because of extreme cold conditions, a senior health ministry official said.

It also pointed towards an increased referral of critical cases and stated that the number of beds in the hospital was less than the flow of patients.

“I informed @ashokgehlot51 ji that Rs 91.7 lakhs has already been advanced to JK Loan Hospital during 2019-20 under National Health Mission.

Kota District alone has an annual allocation of Rs 27.45 Cr for ’19-20, from the annual budgeted amount of Rs 1788.97 Cr for Rajasthan state (sic),” Vardhan said in another tweet.

“I told @ashokgehlot51 ji that #Rajasthan may go ahead and propose for further financial assistance in the upcoming Rajasthan National Health Mission (NHM) meeting after doing their gap analysis.

We’ll do our best to prevent further deaths, I assured him fully,” the Union health minister wrote on Twitter.