NEW DELHI: The death of nearly 91 infants in Rajasthan’s Kota in last one month has forced the Centre to make a significant policy change. The central government has asked government medical colleges across India to outsource continuous monitoring of life-saving biomedical devices to third parties. At present, such a model is followed in primary and community health centres and district hospitals under the Union National Health Mission’s Biomedical Equipment Management and Maintenance Programme, where maintenance and management of biomedical devices are either carried out on a PPP mode or done in-house mandatorily.
Sources in the Union Health and Family Welfare said that though it has not received a formal report from the state, a preliminary probe by Kota’s J K Lone Hospital suggests that over 70 per cent of the crucial equipment were not in working condition. These included infusion pumps, warmers, oxymeters, nebulisers, ABG machines and even X-ray machines meant for newborns. The report by the hospital has also pointed towards the shortage of medical personnel in the paediatrics department.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has also written to the state government offering help in managing critical patients and investigating the cause of infant deaths, said officials.“We are asking the states to follow BMMP that includes 24 X 7 toll-free numbers for reporting breakdown, medical equipment management information data for planning and monitoring performance, preventive maintenance, corrective maintenance and user training,” a senior official in the medical education division of the ministry said.
He added that while the high number of deaths could be due to increased referral of critical cases and spike in respiratory illnesses due to the extreme cold, the ministry is worried about a high number of infant deaths. Public health experts, meanwhile, said that patient safety is an indicator of quality healthcare worldwide and even if a fraction of deaths would have happened due to defunct devices, it was a matter of grave concern.“Infrastructure is a crucial pillar of quality healthcare. These deaths should be taken all the more seriously as they have happened in an academic set up where there are better staffing and facilities,” said Anant Bhan, an expert in bioethics and health policy.