Beginning of the winters have once again proven to be bleak for children in Rajasthan's Kota after 12 newborns, all of them between one and four days old, succumbed to death at a hospital within a span of 24 hours. This comes just a year after the same facility had hit national headlines over the deaths of at least 100 infants in a month.

Five of the babies, who were 1-4 days old, died on Wednesday night and four more on Thursday at the J K Lon Hospital in Kota, officials from the hospital said.

delhi girl child

The Rajasthan government on Friday constituted a four-member committee to investigate the death of 12 newborns at JK Lon Hospital in Kota in 48 hours, the officials added.

Legacy of death

In 2019 December, a joint report on infant deaths at Umaid Hospital and MDM Hospital in Jodhpur, prepared by the hospitals' governing organisation, stated that a total of 146 deaths (all children) were recorded at the Neonatal Intensive Care and Paediatric ICUs of Kota's J K Lon Hospital.

The J.K. Lon Hospital, which had also ordered an investigation into the children's deaths, initially maintained that the infant mortality rate had been gradually coming down over the years in the institution. SN Medical College principal S S Rathore had then said that the child mortality rate was recorded at three per cent, which was in keeping with international infant mortality rates.

Rathore said that the paediatric care units for critical patients had been winning first prize for the past two years in succession and this was because "we are doing the best".

However, patients and others visiting the hospital opined that it is extremely unhygienic and filthy, with even pigs straying into the premises sometimes.

Baby girl sold in Karimnagar

Though Rathore denied any shortage of resources to deal with the "pressure", many senior doctors from the hospital's paediatric department have been running their own private hospitals and skipping hospital duties.

Low maintenance on large scale

Ever since news of the deaths hit national headlines and ministers started visiting the hospital, J.K. Lon took up renovation work on a large scale. Records show that the hospital had placed fibre sheets and curtains on open windows, painted the walls, repaired the gates, and replaced the broken furniture.

Dr. Amrit Lal Bairwa, who headed the Paediatrics Department at J.K. Lon Hospital, had then said that it would be wrong to attribute the deaths of the infants to the negligence of doctors or the paramedical staff. "As the biggest hospital in the region, this is a tertiary care medical facility. The children are mostly referred to us by private hospitals in the nearby districts and many of them come when they are at the terminal stage of their illness," he says. Bairwa says infants who come from private hospitals develop hypothermia during transit.

Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when the body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C). The normal body temperature is 98.6 F (37 C). The newborns should have body temperature of 36.5 degree Celcius; therefore they were kept on warmers where their temperature stays normal. However, as the hospital lacked functional warmers, their body temperature continued to plummet.


"By the time they get here, they are in a serious condition. We get only 24-48 hours to save them. Often we are helpless," he added.

What made the matters worse was the absence of oxygen pipeline in the hospital due to which oxygen was supplied to kids with the help of cylinders, a committee formed by the Rajasthan government to probe the lacunae in the hospital resulting in the deaths of kids had confirmed in its January report.

Surprisingly, the ICU was not fumigated for months, the report added.

But the continuing deaths recently have further made the issue to be "more sensitive".

Family members of the victims have accused the hospital staff of medical negligence. Relatives of two infants sat on a dharma inside the hospital premises on Thursday.

Family members of the infants have alleged that no hospital staff attended their kids when they brought them to the hospital.

Baby girl Disy Dove Bloom

They have alleged that the staff refused to attend them, saying doctors will attend them in the morning. Reacting to the incident, Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma has sought a report from the hospital on the infants' deaths.

Pseudo Gorakhpur

Infant deaths have become a passing affair in hospitals across India. On the night of 10 August 2017, some 30 children died at a hospital in Gorakhpur, a northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, highlighting chronic malaise in the public health system. The hospital and state government denied the deaths were caused by a lack of liquid oxygen after bills went unpaid. There was no offer of a post mortem - which would be routine in many other countries - into any of the deaths that night.

The Baba Raghav Das Hospital, where the deaths occurred, caters for a population of up to 60 million, is similarly overburdened and under-resourced just like the Kota hospital. But even given the pressures it operates under, those who witnessed the night of 10 August say it was frantic and extraordinary. Parents were seen carrying the bodies of their dead children as journalists tried to gain entry to the ward. The local media had got a tip-off that there was an apparent shortage of oxygen.