Operation Kota: Milk for babies used to make tea, docs absent, infants exposed to rodents, finds India Today
Rajasthan’s J. K. Lon hospital sent 100 babies into an early grave in December. A reality-check by India Today’s Special Investigation Team has found chronic absenteeism and poor hygiene at the root of its sorry state.
According to Dr. H.L. Meena, who was recently removed as J.K. Lon’s medical superintendent, the hospital’s chief paediatrician remained often unavailable.
The truancies, he told India Today’s SIT, caused inordinate delays in equipment purchases and repairs.
Remember, Kota’s J.K. Lon is the only hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit in a 200-km radius.
“The HoD [of the paediatrics department] hasn’t turned up for work in the past two years,” Dr. Meena remarked. “The HoD wouldn’t show up. Had he been coming to work, whatever gaps remained in equipment/instruments would have been plugged.”
He insisted that the HoD’s unavailability once also led to the cancellation of public tenders for oxygen pipelines.
The HoD was given the files for the tenders. He didn’t send them back. The tender got lapsed after 50 days.
– Dr. Meena
“The HoD was given the files for the tenders. He didn’t send them back. The tender got lapsed after 50 days,” according to Dr. Meena.
The J.K. Lon’s former medical superintendent claimed that he raised the issue with higher authorities but no action was taken. “In my complaints, I demanded that the HoD be immediately asked to report because of the increasing number of child patients.”
Absenteeism is not limited to the head of the hospital’s paediatrics department. India Today’s check found other senior doctors would also skip work routinely.
A technician at J.K. Lon, Abhishek, disclosed that the rot was widespread among the medical staff.
“The main problem centres around the doctors. There are no doctors — assistant professors don’t turn up,” he said.
“Young MBBS graduates are not trained. We tell them how to operate the equipment. These new MBBS graduates don’t have much knowledge. Assistant professors should be present. Suppose there’s a patient put on the ventilator. Proper diagnosis can’t be done because assistant professors are not around.”
The milk meant for the babies’ wards is used for making tea. It goes short for the babies. Nobody would ever come to know. Some get it, some don’t. There’s no one to measure the quantity.
– Rakesh Sharma
With doctors not reporting on duty, patient care has been impacted, Abhishek said. Worse, the hospital is not equipped to perform routine blood tests on critical babies, he added.
“A patient on the ventilator requires arterial blood gas tests. These tests should be carried out every hour. The equipment is dysfunctional. It’s not done here. There’s one such machine in the gynaecology department, but the testing strips haven’t been procured in the past one year,” he said.
“Do you mean that equipments are also not repaired in time?” the reporter asked.
“The equipments are not repaired till they do not fetch commissions. If machines develop some fault during the annual maintenance warranty, repairs are not ordered. Once the warranty period gets over, some local contractor is hired for the repairs in exchange for commissions,” the technician replied.
Meantime, the state and central government authorities have launched investigations into the deaths.
But India Today reality-check found newborn babies at JK Lon are exposed to pests and rodents inside its intensive care.
Abdul Matin, who is in charge of nursing at its neonatal ICU, confessed that rats often invade the intensive care unit for the newborns.
Rats are there inside and also roam outside the babies’ ward. They come here. We spray pesticides and they go away.
– Abdul Matin
“Rats are there inside and also roam outside the babies’ ward. They come here. We spray pesticides and they go away,” he said.
“How many cleaners are there in the ward?” the reporter asked.
“There’s only one cleaner for three to four wards,” Abdul Matin replied.
Shortage of cleaning staff compounds the problem.
Giriraj Singh, who is responsible for the overall sanitation at the hospital, claimed that he is terribly understaffed.
“We need at least 40-50 people. With that, I can double the strength through all the three shifts,” he said. “As of now, it’s two at night and two in the evening. That’s it.”
Rakesh Sharma, who is part of J.K. Lon’s nursing staff for the past 30 years, revealed that his superiors would even steal baby milk from the hospital stores.
“The milk meant for the babies’ wards is used for making tea. It goes short for the babies. That’s how it’s managed. Nobody would ever come to know. Some get it, some don’t. There’s no one to measure the quantity,” he said.
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