New Delhi: Kota’s JK Lon Hospital, which has been in the news for deaths of over 100 infants since the start of December, once again courted controversy on Friday after authorities were seen rolling out carpets to welcome ministers visiting the premises. The incident comes at a time when two more infants have died at the hospital, taking the death toll to 104.
The deaths have sparked a political slugfest, with Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati calling for the resignation of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The former UP chief minister charged that Gehlot was making political statements that were irresponsible and unsympathetic. “This is highly shameful,” Mayawati said in a tweet.
The chief minister, on his part, denied any negligence on part of the hospital. He also sought to play down the death toll, saying: “1000 children have died under BJP’s rule, while 100 have died under Congress rule. There should be no politics in it. The media is creating an issue out of it.”
Carpet laid out at the JK Lon Hospital.
On Thursday, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said the number of deaths was definitely higher this time compared to the last few years as he assured support to the state in tackling the health crisis. “I have written a letter to Gehlot requesting him to look into the matter,” he said, adding that a multi-disciplinary expert team of top paediatricians was being sent by healthy ministry for “gap analysis and quick measures to be taken”.
The rising number of deaths also forced Congress president Sonia Gandhi to seek an explanation from the party’s state president Avinash Pandey. Pandey said a detailed report on the deaths has been submitted to the Congress chief.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Gehlot assured that his government is sensitive to the deaths of sick infants at the JK Lone Hospital, but insisted that there should be no politics on the issue.
“Infant mortality in this hospital of Kota is steadily decreasing. We will try to reduce it further. The health of mothers and children is our top priority,” he wrote on the micro-blogging site.
The Congress CM also said he welcomes a central government formed team of experts to come and help improve health services in the state. “We are ready for the improvement of medical services in the state with their consultation and cooperation,” he tweeted.
This came two days after a committee formed by the state government had cleared the hospital of any lapses in the death of children, saying that the right treatment was given.
The hospital administration had last week appointed a three-member committee, headed by Paediatrics Department’s chief Amrit Lal Bairwa, to investigate the deaths.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Monday, however, had found serious lapses at the hospital in Kota, saying its inspection had found broken windows and gates, pigs roaming inside campus and acute shortage of staff.
Hospital authorities, however, said the number of deaths reported at the health facility in 2019 has witnessed a steady decline since 2014 when 1,198 children died. In 2019, 963 infants died at the hospital, while the figure stood at 1005 in 2018.
The nursing in-charge of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which specialises in looking after premature and sick newborns, has been replaced, authorities said. Efforts for upgradation and maintenance of equipment at the hospital have been put in place, following directions by the Congress government in the state.
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