An alarming report prepared by health officials in Tripura has brought to light the glaring inadequacy in functioning of the government hospital that has claimed the lives of nearly 138 infants in a short span of 83 days.
According to the report, submitted to the state government, of the 138 deaths between Jan 1 and March 24 at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital here, 29 infants died in birth asphyxia. Pneumonia, low birth weight, septicemia, malaria, gastro enteritis, encephalitis and meningitis as well as some undiagnosed diseases were the causes of the other deaths.
Though the number of doctors is sufficient in the pediatric department, their services are not properly utilized and the labour room doctor is overburdened, the five-page report stated.
It also pointed to the acute shortage of nursing staff in the pediatric department of the 100-year-old hospital and said delivery and resuscitation of newborn babies was mainly being done by midwives. 'This practice is undesirable,' the report said. Besides, vital monitors and essential equipment were also lacking.
The three-member team, headed by the Agartala Government Medical College's P. Nishikanta Singh, found records of investigations of only 15 cases out of the 138 deaths. Of these, more than 50 percent deaths are in the neonatal period.
The team observed that early detection of fetal distress and proper neonatal resuscitation could have prevented many of the deaths caused by birth asphyxia and that facilities for investigation were not utilized nor expert opinion sought in most cases.
About 800 children, till the age of 12, are admitted to the referral hospital every month and the average mortality rate is about 15 a month.
'Most of the children who died were infants in the age group of zero to 12 months. The facilities at the hospital are the best among the 19 main government hospitals in Tripura although there is room for improvement. We have already taken appropriate steps on the basis of the recommendations of the expert team to decrease the incidence of deaths,' Tripura's Health Director Satya Ranjan Debbarma said Friday.
The infant mortality rate in the state in 2003 was 32 against the national average of 60.