At least nine babies died during treatment at Shaikh Zayed Children’s Hospital in Larkana between Friday and Saturday morning, creating a controversy between their parents and doctors over the cause of death.
The parents said that the doctors were negligent and some of them blamed the deaths on long power outages and the hospital’s broken generators, because of which life-saving machines could not be operated.
The babies include two-month-old Abdul Rehman, Arbelo Jatio’s three-day-old daughter, Abdul Ghaffar’s four-day-old daughter and Sikandar Ali’s seven-day-old daughter.
The medical institution, which operates under Chandka Medical College Hospital, has 139 beds but at present, 198 children are admitted. Between 40 and 50 children are brought to the emergency ward each day and more than one child is accommodate on a single bed. People from far away villages of Sindh and Balochistan travel all the way to Larkana to have their children treated.
When contacted, the medical superintendent, Dr Afsar Bhutto, refuted allegations of negligence and said that no power outage had taken place during the time that the babies died. “Large generators are on standby and it is wrong to say that the children died because of power outages or doctors’ negligence.”
He said that the babies were either premature or born after prolonged labour, which impedes the flow of oxygen to a child’s brain. “They were brought to hospital in a critical condition and none of them weighed more than one kilogramme.”
Dr Bhutto added that most women living in remote rural areas employ midwives to aid delivery. When the babies’ health start to deteriorate, only then do they rush to the hospital. But by that time, it is already too late – the survival rate in such cases is almost zero.
Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has ordered an inquiry into the incident, saying that the deaths at the hospital are shocking, given that it has modern facilities. He said strict action would be taken against any doctor found responsible.
Health minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed has formed a committee, headed by the director-general of health, Dr Feroz Memon, to ascertain the cause of deaths.
The committee also includes Prof. Khurshed Abbasi and Prof. Salma Memon. It will submit its report by Tuesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2012.