Dozens of children die in India hospital allegedly due to oxygen shortage | News | DW | 04.09.2017
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Dozens of children die in India hospital allegedly due to oxygen shortage

The state government has launched a probe to find out whether 30 infants died because of a lack of oxygen. It's the second case in a month where oxygen shortage was blamed for children's deaths in a state-run hospital.

At least 49 children have died in the past one month in state-run Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Farrukhabad district in northern India.

Police investigations showed that 30 of the 49 children had died of perinatal asphyxia, a condition caused by a reduced level of oxygen in infants just before, during or after delivery.

"The probe officer was told by mothers that the hospital did not insert oxygen pipes [into infants' windpipes] after birth, and proper medication was also not given," police said in the complaint, quoting an inquiry report.

Police began investigating on Sunday after the inquiry ordered by a city magistrate blamed senior doctors at the hospital for the fatalities.

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Desperate for medical attention in India

Senior officials from the Uttar Pradesh state administration insisted the deaths were not caused by oxygen shortage.

"Linking these deaths to oxygen is unnecessarily sensationalizing the issue. It's without any basis," the state's Principal Health Secretary Prashant Trivedi told journalists in a press conference.

A high-level fact-finding team has been appointed to investigate the matter.

Second potential case in a month

The series of deaths in Farrukhabad district has put the spotlight on India's poorly managed and underfunded public health system. The country spends about one percent of its GDP on public health, among the lowest proportions in the world.

In August, more than 60 children died in five days in another government-run hospital in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. Most of the deaths were blamed on a lack of oxygen supply, which was cut off due to non-payment of bills.

The state administration maintained the Gorakhpur deaths were not because of medical lapses.

Three persons have been arrested in the case, including a doctor who headed the ward where the deaths took place.

ap/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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