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Kerala Government Bears the Brunt for Infant Deaths

Kerala's Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, set to mark its first anniversary May 18, is battling charges that it is to blame for the deaths of 38 newborns in a state-run hospital.

The children contracted infection in the labour room of the Sree Avittam Tirunal (SAT) Hospital in the last two months.

A court has charged Health Minister P.K. Sreeemathi and seven others with culpable homicide not amounting to murder over the deaths. A special probe has also been initiated into the matter.

The Congress-led opposition has been going all out protesting against the tragedy, leading several demonstrations and demanding Sreemathi's resignation.

The deaths were due to infection the infants contracted in the labour room, according to blood tests conducted at the Medical College Hospital. The infection is stated to have been caused by klebsiella bacteria that proliferate in unhygienic conditions. A few infants died due to staphylococci infection.

Last week, the hospital's superintendent was removed for not informing the government about the deaths.

The Kerala Government Medical College Teachers Association has, however, blamed the government for the hospital's poor infrastructure. According to it, the staff strength was inadequate to handle around 60 births a day.

Apart from appointing a committee to look into the matter, the health department soon decided to recruit 50 nurses and other paramedical staff.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) state secretary Pinnarayi Vijayan has branded the issue a "conspiracy" by the opposition and a senior official of the Indian Medical Association to defame the Left government.

"This is a conspiracy hatched to help the private hospital lobby," he alleged.

Law Minister M. Vijaykumar hit out at a court for registering a case against Sreemathi without any probe.


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