The Gujarat government on Sunday set up a three-member expert committee to probe into the circumstances and causes of death of nine infants in 24 hours. While 11 newborns died at the hospital within 36 hours, media reports said as 20 children succumbed at the government facility during the last three days.
"This is a very sad incident and we have already appointed a committee to look into the reasons," Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told reporters here.
The committee, led by a Deputy Director of Medical Education, is expected to look at the prima facie reasons for the deaths and is expected to submit its report in a day.
"We will initiate immediate measures to overcome any negligence or lacunae in the treatment found by the panel," Rupani said, but quickly added: "But, prima facie, it appears that the case is not about lack of availability of medicines or medical facilities."
Earlier in the day, he had held meeting with top Health department officials in Gandhinagar regarding the incident.
The government said in a release that of the nine children who died, four were born in the hospital, while the other five were referred to the civil hospital from towns of five districts with "extremely low birth weight" complications, while some suffered from life-threatening diseases and were in critical condition, an official release said on Sunday.
"Of the nine deaths in the 24 hours, five babies were referred from distant places -- Lunawada (Mahisagar district), Surendranagar (town in Saurashtra), Mansa (Gandhinagar district), Viramgam (Ahmedabad district) and Himmatnagar (Sabarkantha district) -- and were having severe life threatening conditions such as extremely low birth weight (around 1.1 kg), hyaline membrane disease, early onset septicaemia and disseminated intra-vascular coagulation," the release read.
Besides, four babies born at the civil hospital "died due to lethal complications such as severe birth asphyxia and meconium aspiration", it said.
The four newborns at the civil hospital were stated to have "died due to lethal complications such as severe birth asphyxia and meconium aspiration." Civil Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr M.M. Prabhakar told reporters late Saturday evening that all the nine infants were under-weight.
Prabhakar said two more babies have died, taking the toll to 11 since Friday midnight.
"While a newborn died of cancer, another succumbed to complications arising out of extremely low birth weight," he said.
With this, 20 babies have died in the past three days at the 100-bed neonatal care facility, while the daily average of deaths of newborns at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital is five to six.
Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare department, Jayanti Ravi said the condition of some of the babies had already deteriorated and they had to be referred to the civil hospital here from distant places as doctors there might still be on Diwali vacation.
The committee will look into the reasons for the deaths and it is expected to submit its report in a day, she said.
"Being the main hospital in the state, all complicated cases are referred here. It is natural that many babies are not able to survive despite (our) efforts," she said.
According to the government, "extremely low birth weight deliveries" continue to be a challenge in Gujarat in view of "suboptimal nutritional status of pregnant women".
The average number of deaths of newborns at the Ahmedabad civil hospital is around five to six per day, the release added.
Meanwhile, members of opposition Congress protested outside the office of the superintendent of the hospital over the child deaths.