Lifestyle & Belief

12 infants die in 48 hrs at Kolkata hospital

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A three-day old unnamed male infant, whose mother Kokilaben died after allegedly contracting Hepatitis B, is held by his aunt Sudhaben Amratbhai Raval in Dhansura, some 95 kms from Ahmedabad on February 22, 2009. Police in India arrested two doctors on homicide charges for spreading hepatitis B by injecting patients with used needles, officials said. At least 34 people have died in an outbreak of the disease in the town of Modasa in western Gujarat state, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Credit:

SAM PANTHAKY

Parents have accused a Kolkata hospital of negligence after 12 infants died there in a span of less than 48 hours, CNN/IBN reports.

However, the hospital has attributed the deaths to the parents' failure to bring the babies in sooner, the paper said. Citing hospital superintendent Dilip Roy, the paper said that the babies were already in a very critical condition before being admitted.

"We are always trying to improve service and treatment but some deaths are taking place since the babies are being brought here at a critical stage," the paper quoted Roy as saying.

Notably, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had in June ordered an inquiry after 18 infants had died in the same hospital.

Infant mortality remains high across India, due to nutritional deficiencies among the poor, a relatively low number of hospital births and cultural practices like the refusal to touch newborns until after they have been cleaned by a low-caste attendant.

However, the impact is also felt from the dismal state of health care, generally, and the lack of access to medical services for the poor.

The Indian government spends only 0.9 percent of its gross domestic product on health care, ranking 171st out of 175 countries in public health spending, according to the World Health Organization. It relies on the private sector, which contributes another 4.3 percent of GDP, to make up the shortfall. But the poor are often afraid to seek treatment from private hospitals, fearing refusal, and several times investigations have shown that hospitals in cities like New Delhi have failed to live up to obligations to treat destitute patients free of charge.