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Assam: 16 Infants Die Over a Week

The Jorhat Medical College and Hospital authorities maintain that the deaths were not due to negligence on their part.
Jorhat Medical College

Jorhat Medical College and Hospital, Assam | Image Credit: Sentinel Assam

The government of Assam has ordered a probe after around 16 infants died at the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital between November 1 and November 9. According to reports, some of the infants had congenital diseases, whereas some had very low birth weight. The hospital authorities maintain that most of the deaths are referral cases, and that negligence was not a factor in the deaths.

In August, last year, a similar incident had caused a massive uproar when 60 infants died from lack of oxygen at Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur. In this case, the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government went after the hospital staff and had put people behind bars.

Also Read | Children Continue to Die at BRD Medical College, 907 Deaths Since January This Year

On October 8, this year, The Assam Tribune reported that during the first nine months of this year, 416 out of 1,515 infants died while undergoing treatment at the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College Hospital in Barpeta. Here too, the hospital authorities laid the blame on the lack of proper prenatal care followed by the expecting mothers.

There may be some truth in the assertions by the hospital authorities, since at present, Assam has a ratio of 1 doctor for every 3,000 people, whereas the World Health Organisation has set 1 for every 1,000 as the standard. This could indicate a situation wherein medical care and assistance is inaccessible to many people, largely due to availability.

Also Read | U-turn on Gorakhpur Tragedy: UP CM Blames ‘Internal Politics’ for Children’s Deaths

Assam has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the country. Yet, despite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led union government launching the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) in June 2016, this does not seem to have met much success in the BJP-ruled state. It should be noted that in 2017, Assam experienced a dip in the infant mortality rate from 47 per 1,000 live births to 44 per 1,000 live births.

According to budget data published by the Reserve Bank of India, Assam’s expenditure on medical, public health and family welfare as a ratio of its total expenditure was the fourth highest in India in 2015 – 2016. Delhi had the highest ratio followed by Puducherry and Meghalaya.

However, according to the National Family and Health Survey 4 (NFHS 4) for the year 2015 – 2016, Nagaland had the lowest and Assam had the third highest number of institutional deliveries in the Northeast. Despite having a high number of institutional deliveries, Assam recorded the highest infant and under five mortality rates in the Northeast. Nagaland, by contrast, had the fourth highest mortality rates in the Northeast, after Assam, Mizoram and Meghalaya.

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