One more child has died at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) in Siliguri. A little over a month, Sajid Alam from Haldibari in Jalpaiguri had been admitted in the paediatric ward at 3 pm yesterday with a fever and severe respiratory distress, sources said.
According to doctors, he died within an hour of his admission to the ward. With this, three children suffering from similar ailments have died at the NBMCH in the past 48 hours. The child had also been suffering from congestive heart failure, which is a chronic progressive condition that affects the pumping power of the heart muscle, doctors said.
As more children continue to fall ill in what is being termed as a viral outbreak, the deaths have raised questions, though the NBMCH authorities said the timing of the admission or referral of the patients had a lot to do with the death rate.
According to them, co-morbidities might cause severe viral infections in children. “For patients who have comorbid factors and malnutrition, viral infections can be severe,” said NBMCH Superintendent Dr Sanajy Mallik. Sources said that in the last 24 hours, 22 children had been admitted to the paediatric ward, of whom 11 were suffering from fever and respiratory distress.
The officer on special duty for public health in north Bengal, Dr Susanta Kumar Roy, on the other hand, denied allegations that there was a lack of treatment infrastructure at the NBMCH.
“We have adequate infrastructure for the treatment of children in the paediatric ward. These apart, beds have been augmented, and specialized facilities have been created with adequate manpower. The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of the main causes of the disease,” Dr Roy said.
However, sources said that the expansion plan with a 55- bed sick newborn care unit is yet to see the light of day. Paediatric ventilators are also yet to be brought here, a source said.
According to Dr Roy, the ventilators will arrive at the NBMCH very soon. Dr Roy underlined that the infection usually spreads from adults to children. “The adults, including the parents, go out from homes and they may catch cold. After returning home, they cuddle the children, hug them and through these, the infection spreads. Usually, children up to three years old are infected,” he said.
Some paediatricians have said that it was always important to maintain hygiene whenever the parents come close to their children. Asked if routine immunization of children and programmes pertaining to reproductive and child health had taken a setback due to the Covid-19 situation, Dr Roy said the routine immunization drive had been hit last year, as the focus was then on tackling Covid-19. He said that the same had, however, been brought to the streamline.
Meanwhile, two children who have tested positive for Covid-19 have been referred to the NBMCH from the Kurseong Sub Divisional Hospital, sources said. Three children have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Kurseong sub-divisional hospital in Darjeeling hills,” sources said.
Kurseong hospital assistant superintendent Krishna Ghosh said a 4-four-month-old child, a four-year-old, and a one-and-a-half-year-old child tested positive between 22 and 23 September. However, one of the children was discharged after treatment from the hospital yesterday. According to Dr Ghosh, the two other children were doing just fine and that they were sent to the NBMCH so that they could get better care there.
The Siliguri (Oragnistational) District of the BJP staged a demonstration against the deaths of children in hospitals. The party’s Matigara-Naxalbari MLA, Anandamay Barman, said they would request the Centre to send an experts’ team to look into the situation.
Mr Barman alleged that the health department in the state had miserably failed to tackle the outbreak. The party served a memorandum to the assistant chief medical officer of health, Siliguri, Dr Maheshwar Mudi.
In Balurghat in South Dinajpur, BJP leaders today staged protests and served a 14-point memorandum to the Balurghat District Hospital Superintendent. The BJP alleged that doctors in the Balurghat Hospital had been spending less time in the hospital and were devoting much of their time in their own personal clinics.
“BJP will continue such a movement in the future also. The health services have broken down in the district. Doctors are not serving the people properly,” a BJP leader said.
Superintendent of the Balurghat hospital Dr Parthasarathy Mandal, meanwhile, said that he would look into the matter.