At the government-run JK Lon Hospital in Kota, Rajasthan, 100 children died in December. This became the big news point with people calling to attention the deplorable hygiene levels and lack of equipment in the hospital. And with it came the blame game between Congress’s Ashok Gehlot and the BJP all week.
What many didn’t see was the hospital’s previous records, which showed that 963 children had died in 2019, most of them infants. But this was the lowest figure in five years – on average, nearly 1,100 infants had been dying every year since 2014.
The startling figures and the belated media coverage are why Kota’s JK Lon Hospital’s infant deaths is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.
If the present situation has persisted for at least five years, how come it caught the national media’s attention only now?
The politics of care
All political parties would do well to remember that the number of deaths of children in Kota under both Congress’ Ashok Gehlot government and BJP’s Vasundhara Raje governments have been nearly 1,100 per year on an average. Maximum number of children – 1,260 – had died in 2015.
No wonder many are asking why the regional and national media have raised this issue of child deaths in Kota only now. Some local reporters have been highlighting issues like lack of hospital equipment, shortage of staff and overall poor hygiene levels, while some reporters have even surreptitiously donated heaters. But the news of the deaths largely remained local. The national media took its own time to report on this.
People in JK Lon Hospital
The hospital is acutely under-staffed and the equipment and facilities are woefully inadequate. Out of the sanctioned list of 533 equipment required for treating patients, only 213 are in a working condition while the remaining 320 are broken. There is no end to the number of things that are wrong with the JK Lon Hospital: a single bed crammed with four patients, pigs encircling the hospital building, wards with windows that have no glass, and ventilators that do not usually work, each one is used for two babies.
The majority of patients at Kota’s JK Lon Hospital come from extremely poor backgrounds and have no other option but to endure. Many also come from nearby districts and lose each day’s work because they are farmers, welders, and contractual labourers. They are often the ones to bear the brunt of tired and overworked doctors and moody guards. More often than not, they do not understand the treatment their children require or what they are going through, and they cannot afford private hospitals. But it is a system where everyone blames each other and passes the buck — from doctors to the hospital superintendent to the state government and the central government.
The Kota child deaths are a reflection of India’s fractured health system where children die due to lack of oxygen supply, infants die after consuming litchi on empty stomachs, and many others die every day for various other ailments.