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West Bengal crib deaths: Inadequate infrastructure, increased inflow of patients to blame?

The spectre of crib deaths has returned to haunt Mamata Banerjee and West Bengal with 13 infants dying in the last 48 hours at Malda Medical College and Hospital authorities claimed the reason for the deaths was low birth weight and birth asphyxia. Hospital authorities said that most of the babies died due to low birth weight and birth asphyxia (breathing trouble). Eight babies, they claimed were from Bihar and Jharkhand and six of them had died before they were admitted.

As per the norm, health official blamed the increase in inflow of patients at the district hospital, claiming the infrastructure and services weren't enough to deal with the demand. The neo-natal ward gets so crowded that that new-born babies actually have to be kept on floors. Reports suggest that people from the region tend to rush to Malda District Hospital since it was converted to a medical college and give sub-divisional hospitals like Chanchol and Kaliachak a pass as they lack basic critical care facilities.

Officials, however, added that unless primary- and secondary-level health care units are revamped, crib deaths will continue. The need of the hour is to improve infrastructure at sub-divisional and district hospitals also by setting up sick new-born care units, they added.Crib deaths also tend to go up in winters due to rise in breathing problems among malnourished infants. Dr Asit Biswas, spokesperson of Health Department, said a meeting has been convened with the CMO, who is monitoring the situation.

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Interestingly, the TMC election manifesto had promised significant healthcare service improvements and promised to revamp primary health centres, district hospitals, sub-divisional hospital and super-specialty apex hospitals. In 2011, 109 babies died at Malda Medical College and Hospital, and 48 at BC Roy in 2011 but the government seems to have done nothing except creating a task force.

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