24 patients, including 12 newborns died in Dr Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College and Hospital in Maharashtra’s Nanded on Monday. 7 more patients, 4 of whom were newborns, died on Tuesday morning, pushing the total number of deaths to 31. The hospital previously witnessed 10-13 deaths on a daily basis and the sudden spike has been attributed to a major shortage of medicines and staff.
A sudden influx of patients from Nanded’s neighbouring districts of Parbhani, Hingoli and Yavatmal has also contributed to worsening the situation.
70 more children at the hospital are in critical condition, which points to the dire state of healthcare facilities in the region.
Dean of the Nanded hospital provides insight
Dr. Shyamro Wakode, Dean of the government hospital, stated that there has been no shortage of medicines or medical professionals at the hospital. He said that the patients passed away as their bodies did not respond to the treatments that were provided to them. He also stated that elderly patients with ailments such as diabetes and liver failure, aged between 70-80 years, were amongst the deceased.
Dr. Wakode revealed that the state-government owned Haffkine Institute in Mumbai has stopped supplying to all State-run hospitals. Despite being made advance payments to, the institute has not sent the necessary medicines to the hospital.
He added, “since [the Dr Shankarrao Chavan Hospital] is the only major hospital in the radius of 60-70 km, [the hospital is] under a severe load and [their] sanctioned budget is not enough to buy medicines locally”.
The grim reality of those who have suffered loss
Many patients and their relatives at the hospital have complained of poor facilities, unavailability of medicines and poor administration. Patients from weak economic backgrounds complained that they were made to buy medicines from elsewhere. The Indian Express has reported the grim reality of a few such patients who have suffered loss.
25-year-old carpenter, Azeem Khan, had admitted his wife, Nagma, to a hospital in Parbhani. He was told that contaminated water had entered his baby’s mouth during the C-section due to which ventilator support was needed. The Parbhani hospital did not have a ventilator and so Khan was referred to the Nanded hospital.
Khan’s newborn baby boy was not put on ventilator support at the Nanded hospital and was declared dead after three days of treatment.
Khan stated that he was made to run around the hospital for tests with his son’s blood sample without being given clear instructions or detailed updates. He was initially told that his son’s condition was serious and three hours later he was told that he had died.
Another such story is of Sudhakar Bhimrao Solanki, a farmer, who had gotten his pregnant daughter Rani Nagesh admitted to a private hospital in Bhokar in Nanded district. After carrying out a C-section operation on his daughter, doctors informed him that the baby’s condition was not normal and that her treatment would cost 1.5 lakhs.
Solanki could not afford this amount and got his newborn granddaughter shifted to the Dr. Shankarao Chavan Hospital within the same day. The baby died within a few hours during treatment.
Solanki blamed the hospital for his granddaughter’s death. “They said that the machine needed for the baby’s treatment developed problems”, he stated. He added that the exact cause of the death was not shared with him.
Mehboob Khan, a resident of Melgaon stated that his wife’s condition deteriorated four days after she was discharged from the hospital. She had to be rushed back and has been getting treatment for over 10 days. “I am a farmer, but I have spent around Rs 15,000 on buying medicines, injections, etc. from outside”, he stated.
The hospital staff on the cause of the deaths
A senior doctor at the hospital shared that 10-14 deaths per day were previously recorded daily at the hospital, which is the case in other major hospitals of the State. He stated that the neonatal intensive care unit had only 12 nursing staff while there were 67 newborns there.
The doctor added that the State administration needs to review the cause of the surge in the number of deaths at the hospital and resolve the staff shortage issue.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde comments
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said on Tuesday that the government has asked the Health minister and department secretaries to visit Nanded. He denied that an unavailability of medicines and staff were the cause of the deaths.
Instead, he stated that the cause of the deaths was that “a few of [the deceased] were premature babies and senior citizens with serious health conditions”.
What is being done now
Medical Education Minister, Hasan Mushrif, and Nanded’s Guardian Minister, Girish Mahajan, visited the hospital on Tuesday and said that the situation at the facility will improve within the next 15 days.
Mushrif stated that the bed strength of the hospital is 500 while nearly 1000 patients had been admitted. The patients included babies in critical condition. He stated that the manpower and infrastructure of the hospital needed to be increased and upgraded.
“If there is a shortage of doctors at the hospital, private physicians can be hired”, he added.
Nationalist Congress Party national president Supriya Sule called on Chief Minister Shinde to secure the resignation of the ministers responsible and to ensure compensation for the families of the deceased. She also extended her condolences to the families affected.
The incident echoes past tragedies
Merely two months ago, a similar tragedy occurred in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Hospital in Kalwa, Thane, where 18 patients lost their lives within a day due to various complications.
The recurring pattern raises serious concerns about the State’s health infrastructure.