There has been alarming number of neonatal deaths at the GB Pant Children’s hospital and the doctors and government are playing the usual blame game, saying the other party is responsible for these dire circumstances. What most don’t know that there has been an even higher number of infant deaths in the same hospital last year – 895 to be precise. However, somehow the numbers seemed to have been brushed under the carpet quietly.
According to various sources, the hospital is facing innumerable problems – lack of infrastructure, inadequate staff, insanitary wards, thrice the number of infant patients than they are equipped to handle – and all this has resulted in infant deaths.
Doctors and hospital staff are adamant that the government has been ignoring their pleas for a long time and only address the issue when it boils over.
“This hospital is a big mess and government does not pay any heed to its development. If the government can paint road,, why can’t it see the dismal condition of hospitals?” an attendant, Syed Mashkoor of Habba Kadal, asks. “When doctors don’t have ventilators available, when they are running short of medical supplies and life-saving drugs, or equipment, what can doctors do? What can you expect? This is not doctors’ negligence, but government’s negligence towards patients,” he adds. Official records suggest that the hospital admitted 4274 new born patients in 2011 and they recorded 475 neonatal deaths of which 320 were paediatric.
Government to blame?
“This is certainly not an alarming mortality rate in Kashmir. This happens in developing countries and it is considered normal. In Kashmir when you have such heavy rush in the hospital every day, how can you manage? Even then doctors have been trying their best that patient care doesn’t suffer,” registrar, department of anaesthesia at SMHS Hospital, Dr Masood Rasheed, said. “I don’t understand the move from the government. If they can announce 300 more beds to maternity care LD hospital, why cannot they shift this Paediatric hospital to that place, which would benefit and improve patient care and I am sure the mortality rate will also come down,” he said.
“We will be adding more trained and technical staff, and soon tenders would be floated to add some more infrastructures to the hospital. We would be happy if the government provides us more equipment, but unfortunately the G.B Pant Hospital has become a victim of official apathy,” a senior paediatrician at the hospital said, asking not to be named.
The Chief Minister Omar Abdullah visited the hopsital last week and assured that there will be visible improvement in the next 10 days. Describing the situation at the hospital as grave, he said: ‘There is enormous scope for improvement. Levels of cleanliness are extremely poor inside the hospital. Greater discipline is needed with respect to the presence of attendants accompanying the patients.’
Too little, too late?
Our Health Minister Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad called it a ‘matter of shame’, visited the hospital and announced a lot of measures including recruitment of new doctors, training for nurses and free drugs for the children to help tackle the problem. However, what remains to be seen if these measures will help the cause now, in the near future.