At least 109 children have so far died at Kota's JK Lon Hospital in Rajasthan since the beginning of December due to cold shivering in the hospital as it lacked everything a normal hospital should have.
Meanwhile, the local authorities are scrambling to bring in additional staff and equipment amid a rising outcry over poor healthcare facilities in the country.
According to a report by the committee formed by the Rajasthan government to probe the lacunae in the hospital, the infants died due to hypothermia, 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).
Even as the kids in the hospital continued to die in the biting winter cold, the hospital did not have enough stocks of lifesaving equipment, said the report.
The newborns should have a 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.
Roughly three-quarters of the deaths have occurred in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, which treats up to one-month-old babies, said an official directly aware of the matter.
Political blame game
The deaths, which have begun to grab national headlines in the last week, have sparked a social media firestorm about the deplorable state of many government healthcare facilities.
It has also unleashed a political blame game between the state's ruling Congress party, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the centre, after Rajasthan's chief minister defended the situation saying there had been more infant deaths at that hospital when Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP was in power in the state.
What made the matters worse
The government report said that 22 nebulisers out of 28 were dysfunctional, 81 infusion pumps out of 111 were not working and the same was the story with para monitors and pulse oxymeters.
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.
Surprisingly, the ICU was not fumigated for months, the report said.
"The children continued to die in December as Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot celebrated the launch of 'Nirogi Rajasthan' campaign in the state," said former health minister Rajendra Rathore.
Hospital officials said most paediatricians of JK Lon Hospital have been posted at Kota's New Medical College. "The nursing employees, already under-staffed, prefer to stay idle while ward boys rule the roost in the JK Lon Hospital," said an official.
Also, the hospital staff continued with the whitewash inwards where infants suffering from pneumonia were admitted for oxygen.
According to sources, there was no record of 40 heaters purchased for kids. A hospital official said despite Rs 6-crore funds lying with the hospital, no purchase has been made.
On Friday, when state Health Minister Raghu Sharma visited the hospital, a green carpet welcome was given to him, a gesture hardly suited for the grim situation prevailing in the hospital. After drawing severe criticisms, the carpet was rolled back.
On Saturday, the National Human Rights Commission sent a notice to the state government stating the situation raises some serious concerns.
"The state is duty-bound to provide basic necessary medical care to its citizens," the commission said.
Separately, local media reported on Sunday that 219 infants had died in December at two government hospitals in the western state of Gujarat - a BJP-ruled state, which is the home state of Modi.
(With agency inputs.)