Infant deaths:Malnutrition, late diagnosis major causes

Infant deaths:Malnutrition, late diagnosis major causes

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he recent cases reported from civil hospitals in Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Surat have once again highlighted the reasons behind the poor state of affairs in the public health sector in Gujarat.

One of the biggest reasons behind the infant deaths in the state hospitals is said to be the non-availability of specialised staff including doctors, nurses and medical officers. Although over the last five years, the state has brought in a number of modern facilities, it has not been able to recruit expert doctors and other staff.

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Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report in 2017-2018 had revealed “instances of higher neonatal and maternal deaths, vacant posts of gynaecologists and paediatricians, and the lack of life-saving equipment and beds in the maternity ward of test-checked DHs (district hospitals).”

The report said that the strength of staff remained much below the Indian Public Health Standards in dozens of hospitals. The shortage of doctors ranged from 29% to 77% in hospitals and medical officers from 7% to 69%. In several hospitals, the day and night shelter facility for mothers of neonates kept in special newborn care units (SNCU) was unavailable .

Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister and state health minister Nitin Patel said that the state government is trying to open more medical and nursing colleges to strengthen the staff in the hospitals. He gave details of medical equipment across the hospital which, he claimed, have been working.

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“The main reason behind infant deaths is malnutrition and late diagnosis,” he told reporters at least twice in the past one week. He also said that “There are a number of migrants from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh who come to Gujarat hospitals at critical times when it’s already too late.”

Health officers in Gandhinagar said that in many hospitals, particularly in Rajkot, many infants died due to infection and congestion in the special ward.

According to the state government, 40 hospitals in the state have special new-born care units. 

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Patel had said that in 2016-2017, 14.8% infants out of 45,935 who were admitted to these 40 units, died. The number rose to 15% in 2017-2018 when 47,499 critical babies were admitted. In 2018-2019, 49, 982 critical babies were admitted in SNCUs, out of which 15.3% died. He defended his government by saying that the number of infant mortality rate in these years came to down to 25%, which is better than the national average.

Yet, the number of infant deaths remains a continued cause for concern the state government.

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