Rajasthan, and in particular Kota, has long been afflicted by the chronic problem of infant mortality. Every year, thousands of newborn deaths are reported from various hospitals across the state. The case came into the limelight in early 2020 when hundreds of deaths were reported from J K Lon Hospital in Kota. However, it seems like no one is responsible for these deaths as the Rajasthan minister recently declared that an inquiry found no one guilty for the death of infants in the Kota hospital in December 2019 and 2020.
On Tuesday, Medical and health minister Raghu Sharma was speaking in the Rajasthan state assembly when he claimed that no one is responsible for the deaths in J K Lon hospital in 2019 and 2020. Deaths of infants in Rajasthan has been reduced to mere statistics, with no willingness shown by the government to fix the accountability of the deaths. In fact, the Congress government in Rajasthan tried to brush aside the issue as Sharma claimed that infant deaths in the state are on the decline in the last few years.
Sharma told that 1,060 deaths were reported in Ajmer district in 2017, 1,276 in 2018, 1,200 in 2019, 939 deaths in 2020. In the Kota district, 852 infant deaths were reported in 2017, 881 in 2018, 837 in 2019 and 717 in 2020. Similar is the case districts like Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner, he said. Sharma patted himself on the back, saying that the clear dip in the number of infant deaths in Rajasthan can be attributed to the state government’s efficient management.
Sharma said with the exceptions of Jaipur and Jhalawar, the number of infant deaths has decreased everywhere. For the surge in the number of deaths in Jaipur, Sharma blamed the higher number of referral cases. The minister said in the Budget 2021-22, it has been announced to provide a total of 58 ventilators, multi-monitor systems and ambulances with AC in 36 medical departments. He added that with this, the sick children will be immediately shifted to major hospitals and treated. This will also reduce the percentage of IMR, he said.
Sharma also claimed that the health ministry of the central government had lauded the work done by the state government for the health of children. Citing the neonatal intensive care unit(NICU) report of the central government, Rajasthan was not among the top-10 states in the statistics of child deaths. When the state government also released the data of this report, from the year 2020, the Centre stopped releasing the report, he alleged.
More than 100 infants had died in J K Lon hospital in Kota
The focus of Sharma’s speech was not on fixing the accountability of the infant deaths that have occurred in the state so far but on crowing about the declining number of deaths. A staggering 100+ deaths of infants in Kota’s J K Lon hospital in December 2019 brought to focus the rampancy of infant mortality in Rajasthan.
During that time, the hospital authorities had made a beeline to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing or negligence that may have played a part in the deaths. The hospital has given a clean chit to itself by forming a committee to investigate the deaths, which later ruled out any negligence saying resources and equipment were functioning properly.
The hospital also tried to pin the blame of some of the deaths to terminal diseases suffered by the infants. It claimed that five newborns who died on December 23 and 24 were just a day old and breathed their last within few hours after they were admitted. The report said they were suffering from Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, a condition in which the infant’s brain does not receive enough oxygen and septicemia.
Later in December 2020, the hospital had grabbed headlines once again when 9 infant deaths were reported in a matter of few hours. Rajasthan health minister Raghu Sharma had then ordered a probe to look into the causes of the death. However, now the probe finding says that no one was responsible for their deaths