WB baby death crisis worsens, but govt claims improvement

Another hospital on Saturday joined the list of health facilities where infants are dying in West Bengal amidst claims by the state’s health minister that the child mortality rate witnessed a three per cent drop since the Mamata Banerjee-led government took over eight months ago.

Nine babies died since Friday night in the state-run Behrampore Hospital in Murshidabad district, the district’s chief medical officer (health), Shazahan Siraj, said.

Most of the cases were referred from rural health clinics with complaints ranging from acute respiratory distress and malnutrition to being underweight. All nine babies aged between two days to three months.

Siraj admitted that the paediatric unit of the hospital lacked the requisite infrastructure with only 20 beds against the average daily admission rate of 120 babies.

In the Malda Sadar Hospital, as many as 110 infants died between January 1 and January 27, the hospital’s vice-principal, M A Rashid, told reporters on Saturday.
Of the 110 deceased, 87 babies were below one year.

He, however, gave a ray of hope, saying the state health department has decided to open a 70-bed separate paediatric unit in the Malda Sadar Hospital within a month to cope with the situation.

The state’s minister of state for health, Chandrima Bhattacharya, told reporters quoting Union Health Ministry data that the state witnessed a three per cent drop in the child mortality rate.

“There has been a three per cent drop in the child mortality rate in the last eight months in the state when the new government took over,” she said adding West Bengal now ranked 15th in the country in child mortality rate.

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