Kota: Nearly 1,100 infants died on an average in the last six years at the government hospital in Kota that is currently in news for the death of 100 children in December.
The BJP has targeted the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan for the high number of deaths in Kota’s JK Lon Mother and Child Hospital in December, but hospital records show this is around the average number of infants dying here every month since 2014.
In 2019, the hospital saw death of 963 children (mostly infants) — a 24 per cent fall from 1,260 deaths in 2015. The average number of such deaths at JK Lon Hospital over the last six years was 1,108, according to the official records reviewed by ThePrint.
Rajasthan had a BJP government between 2013 and 2018, when the Congress came to power.
Families of the victims blame the high mortality rate on doctors’ negligence and obsolete equipment, but the hospital authorities pin it on the large number of referral cases JK Lon gets, which serves as a tertiary care centre for nearby areas of Kota, Bundi, Jhalawad, Tonk, Sawai Madhopur, Bharatpur, along with some districts of Madhya Pradesh.
“We get patients from so many areas. Despite the fact that our admission rate is increasing, our mortality rate is decreasing. This only shows that our services are very good, which is why people are coming here,” Dr A.L. Bairwa, head of the department of paediatrics at JK Lon Hospital, told ThePrint.
In percentage terms, the hospital saw death of 7.62 per cent of all patients admitted in 2014. The rate fell to 5.61 per cent in 2019.
‘Blood in the drip’
Accounts of patients’ families and the state of hospital equipment, however, suggest a different story.
Between 23 and 24 December, ten children died at the hospital. Among them was Padma Rawal’s 5-month-old son Tejas. According to Rawal, her son had pneumonia and he died due to doctors’ negligence.
“He developed mouth ulcers in the hospital and would not take in anything, and his eyes would constantly water. Whenever I would go to the doctors, they would dismiss me asking if I was a doctor…
“They would come and put the drip, and forget to take it out and not come unless we persuaded them incessantly. Once there was blood also in the drip. They only attended to my son when his stomach swelled up and took him to the ICU. But by then it was too late,” said Rawal.
Mohammad Rafiq, who travelled to JK Lon Hospital from Bhilwara, had a similar story to share. His newborn son Abdul Qadir was diagnosed with jaundice on 27 December. Four days later, after recovering from jaundice, his son had difficulty in breathing.
“After that, the doctors said it is a serious case and he could have seizures for the rest of his life. I think his health worsened because of infection as the surroundings of the hospital are extremely unhygienic.
“He (son) was then taken to the emergency ward, where half the equipment does not work. He was made to share a ventilator with another newborn baby, and the range machine of the ventilator was not even working! When I went to tell the doctors, they just dismissed me,” said Rafiq.
According to the hospital equipment list, only 213 of the 530 different types of items — ventilators, warmers, ECG machines, defibrillators, nebulizers etc — are in a working condition.
Rafiq also claimed that the emergency room, which has 11 children on four beds, had rats running around.
The family of newborn Asma, who came from Pathan three weeks ago, shifted the infant to a hospital in Jaipur late Thursday due to “dissatisfaction” with treatment.
Kalawati, also from Pathan, had her baby on 15 December. She complained that the ward she has been shifted into has no proper windows, only a wired mesh and a curtain. “It gets so cold at night and all I have is one blanket for both my baby and I,” she said.
Family members of children admitted to the JK Lon Hospital wait in a queue for food. | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint
‘No truth to allegations’
Dr. A.L. Bairwa refuted the patients’ claims of negligence on the part of doctors.
“There is not even 1 per cent truth to the allegation that doctors’ negligence caused the deaths. All the cases reached us in a very critical situation, which were difficult to treat,” he said.
Echoing Bairwa, hospital’s deputy superintendent Dr. Gopikishen said, “There has been no negligence on the part of doctors in the treatment of these children. According to the reports of both the state and the central governments, which investigated the matter, all the cases which were admitted were extremely critical.”
However, a former superintendent of JK Lon hospital, who didn’t wish to be named, alleged that many of these problems were because of a lack of coordination and communication between the HoD (Bairwa) and former superintendent H.L. Meena, who was removed in December after the deaths of infants.
“The two did not see eye to eye. Routine things like giving an estimate of equipment and procuring did not happen, as there was barely any communication between the two,” said the former superintendent.
It is the job of the HoD to contact a contractor for equipment, get an estimate and send an email to the superintendent accordingly. But this did not happen in the last two years, said the former hospital superintendent.
On Thursday, the Union Health ministry reportedly dispatched a multi-disciplinary expert team to study the situation and take action.