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Niranjan lambasts ‘insensitive’ Odisha govt on infant deaths

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 9:

Two days ahead of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Post graduate Institute of Paediatrics in Cuttack, former PCC President Niranjan Pattnaik today turned the heat on the Odisha government describing it as ‘insensitive’ on the issue of the death of over 60 infants in the hospital popularly known as Sishu Bhavan.

Niranjan Patnaik, Former PCC president
Niranjan Patnaik, Former PCC president

“A few photographs of a three-old year baby Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a beach in Turkey has shaken the world. But, it is sad that the picture of infants being carried dead in the lap of their near and dear ones does not move the state government and they continue to be in denial,” Patnaik said in a statement here today.

“If political parties and leaders do not raise such an important issue, what are political parties there for?” he asked.

The UPA Government had started the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) under which the state Government had received nearly Rs 10, 000 crores in the last five years to strengthen the health infrastructure in the state, the senior Congress leader pointed out. Under NRHM, the UPA Government provided money for engaging ASHA Karmees and the training as well as mentoring of these village level workers. The Congress Government at the Centre also provided 108 and 102 ambulances.

But making sure that there are doctors and specialists in the hospital is the responsibility of the state Government and so is managing the hospital system. The state Government has to increase PG seats so that there are enough trained specialist doctors, Patnaik said.

“How are babies acquiring infection in PHCs and CHCs and being referred to Sishu Bhavan in critical condition? Each such infection should have been probed and measures put in place to protect babies from infection even in institutional delivery,” he said.

“The Government has a poor system of monitoring pregnant mothers, who are to be registered, screened for risks and tracked. If pregnant mothers are given financial support, proper diet and problems such as anemia and under-weight of pregnant mothers are tackled, Odisha will not have the ignominy of such a high infant mortality rate and childhood growth retardation. It is a matter of deep regret that the Chief Minister is taking no interest, has found no time to visit the hospital and has left everything to be handled by a few insensitive bureaucrats who are providing facile arguments blaming families for preventing infant death,” the former minister said.

“If pregnant mothers were under the supervision of the health system, what is then causing so many premature births and under-weight babies? If deaths are happening because of delivery outside institutions, then obviously the surveillance system is not working. It is sad that in these modern times, pregnant mothers could not be screened by a proper check-up and a simple ultra-sound to identify high-risk cases. Instead of blaming people, the state Government should plug the loopholes in the health care system. These deaths were and are preventable and the state officials should not argue that these deaths were inevitable or unavoidable,” Patnaik said.

“Nabeen babu is in power for the last 17 years and if there is such a crisis in the system, then he needs to answer for the failure to prevent deaths of infants, which are highly preventable. They are our babies and we will not look the other way when they are neglected,” the Congress leader warned.