Jaipur/New Delhi/Lucknow, January 2: The death of 100 infants at the K Lon hospital in Kota, Rajasthan has turned into political football with the state’s chief minister Ashok Gehot pilloried by BJP leaders, and he inviting the Union health minister to visit the hospital to see for himself the “best facilities” provided there.
Gehlot’s response was to a decision by Union health minister Harsh Vardhan to send a clutch of health experts and economists to the government hospital in Kota to assess the infrastructural gaps and measures to be taken to prevent further deaths.
Harsh Vardhan put his decision out in a tweet: “The high-level team being despatched by @MoHFW_INDIA incl reach #Kota tomorrow. In my letter too to @ashokgehlot51 ji, I’ve offered all possible assistance experts from AIIMS Jodhpur, Health Finance & Regional Director, Health Services Jaipur. It will to prevent any further deaths (sic).”
In response, the Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, also on Twitter, pointed out the “best facilities” being provided at the Kota hospital: “I telephoned Central Health Minister @drharshvardhan ji and requested him to visit #Kota personally so that he can see the best of facilities and proper management by State Health Department and get himself apprised of the facts.”
He further wrote, “Harsh Vardhan ji is himself a doctor and if he visits the hospital in #Kota, it will also clarify the situation for people who are giving reactions mischievously, knowingly, unknowingly and also innocently.”
The team of experts being parachuted by the central government will carry out a gap analysis in terms of clinical protocols, service delivery, manpower availability and equipment for maternal, newborn and paediatric care services at the hospital, a statement issued by the Union Health Ministry said.
In his letter to Gehlot, Vardhan contested the chief minister’s defence that infant mortality in his state has been declining. The Union minister stated that while “it is heartening to note that Rajasthan is persistently showing significant decline in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) for the last four years, available information from Special Newborn Care Units (SNCU) under the National Health Mission, and the state government have showed higher mortality rate of 20.2 per cent in JK Lon Hospital during 2019 in comparison to the preceding two years (Year 2018 = 14.3 pc; Year 2017=4.3 pc)”.
According to Union Health Ministry officials, a preliminary probe has suggested that over 70 per cent of important equipment, including infusion pumps, warmers, oxymeters, nebulisers, meant for newborns, were not in a working condition at the JK Lon hospital and there was a paucity of staff in the paediatrics department.
A recent review also revealed that the mortality rate at the hospital was 20.2 per cent in 2019, as against the 14.3 per cent in the preceding two years, an official said, adding that this meant one in five infants admitted to the hospital last year died from preventable causes.
On the political front, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who faced a similar situation of child deaths in a hospital in Gorakhpur two years ago, waded into the Kota deaths row to turn the glare upon Priyanka Gandhi.
Priyanka Gandhi should have gone to Kota to console the children’s mothers instead of “playing politics” in UP, he said in a dig at the Congress gen sec’s high-profile visits to the families of people killed in protests against the new citizenship law in UP.
The UP chief minister said it was extremely sad that despite being women Priyanka and her mother Sonia Gandhi both could not feel the pain of mothers. In a series of tweets in Hindi, Adityanath said, “The death of 100 innocent children is extremely saddening and heart-wrenching. The death of children is a blot on a civilised society, human values and feelings.
“It is extremely sad that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, despite being women, are not able to understand the sorrow of the mothers.”
BSP supremo Mayawati too questioned Priyanka Gandi’s “silence” on the death of at least 100 children in the past month. She said if Priyanka does not meet the children’s mothers, then her meeting with the kin of the victims of violence during the anti-CAA protests in UP would be “construed as pure theatrics”. (PTI)