Four children die mysteriously in hospital’s incubators

Published June 7, 2014
The ransacked intensive care unit at the Shah National Children’s Hospital after the mob broke into the place and destroyed equipment following the mysterious death of four infants on Friday.—Photo by SH
The ransacked intensive care unit at the Shah National Children’s Hospital after the mob broke into the place and destroyed equipment following the mysterious death of four infants on Friday.—Photo by SH

KARACHI: A private children’s hospital near the Korangi crossing area was sealed off on Friday following the death of four children in its incubating facility in mysterious circumstances that infuriated their relatives and residents who ransacked it in a fit of anger and fury and staged a violent protest on the main road, officials said.

The children — three girls, Shaista, Varsha and Saamia, and a boy, Nasir, — aged between five days and five months, according to the Korangi town health officer.

The police sealed off the hospital, took into custody four hospital employees, including a technician, for interrogation, sent a team of policemen to Hyderabad to arrest the hospital owner and initiated an inquiry to ascertain the cause of deaths, said Landhi SP Faisal Noor while speaking to the media outside the Shah National Children Hospital where over a dozen oxygen cylinders were lying in a haphazard manner.


Premises sealed off, four staffers picked up and police team sent to Hyderabad to arrest owner


The Executive District Officer for Health, Dr Zafar Ijaz, said: “We have officially got the report that four children have died at the Shah National Children’s Hospital near the Korangi crossing while three more are in a critical condition.”

The information was corroborated by SP Noor while talking to reporters at the spot. He said initial investigation indicated that the hospital on Friday had admitted seven children in need of incubators for various reasons and four of them died while three others were in a critical condition.

“The three children have been safely shifted to other hospitals,” he said without elaborating.

The various reasons for the deaths narrated by hospital staff and some people who had gathered there were power failure, depleted oxygen facility and administration of wrong or expired medicines.

However, Dr Ijaz advised the media to wait for a day before arriving at a conclusion. He said a three-member team comprising his subordinates and an independent paediatrician would file a report to him within 24 hours. “At the moment, we are not in a position to offer the reason that actually caused the deaths. Our three-member committee would submit a report to me on Saturday,” he added.

Inside the hospital

A visit inside the one-storey hospital, set up in a bungalow in Darul Salam Cooperative Society in 2011, offered not a promising sight. The fairly small area was stuffed with facilities including a weight-loss treatment facility, ventilators, incubators as well as those for treatment of pneumonia and other diseases.

It also had a blood lab, which had been sealed by the Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority a couple of months ago for being run on commercial grounds and unsatisfactory facilities.

A reception that a visitor comes across immediately after entering the premises was a 4x6ft cubicle. It had a cartoon on an wall to convince people that the business related to children. Everything inside was upside down -- a personal computer, registers, a chair for the receptionist and a jumble of wires, syringes, etc.

Dawn was told that the booth was the first to suffer the wrath of a mob. The rest of the hospital gave no different sight. Its incubating facility, where the deaths reportedly occurred, told a similar tale. Incubators, equipment, chairs, cradles, drawers, tables, and glucose drips were seen broken, upended and messed up on the ground. The room’s ceiling had damaged and its air conditioners and fans were on but were producing an eerie sound. A foul smell pervading around indicated that something was still burning or smouldering.

Soon the police slammed its main gate and officially sealed it off with the note that the hospital’s fate would be decided in accordance with the course of law.

Violence

Earlier, relatives of the deceased turned up outside the hospital in the form of a mob, broke its doors and windows near the reception area to get in and damaged whatever equipment they could lay their hands on until the police arrived.

People gathered outside the hospital told Dawn that after the sudden death of the four children, whose bodies were taken away for burial by their families, the relatives of the other patients at the children’s hospital shifted their critically ill babies to other hospitals.

Story of Subhan

Mohammad Shahid, maternal uncle of eight-month-old Mohammad Subhan, who is seriously unwell, said his sister and brother-in-law shifted the baby to another hospital after doctors at Shah National Children’s Hospital gave up on him. “My baby nephew was diagnosed with meningitis two weeks ago and was admitted here. Now after shifting him to another hospital, we are informed by the doctors there that he was on wrong medication. He received daily injections here for 14 days. We spent Rs75,000 on his treatment here. What were they giving him? His tiny body cannot take further torture,” he wept.

“We could see that there was insufficient staff at the hospital. There was only one doctor called Surgeon Adnan Bashir and he told us each day that my nephew was getting better and my simple sister believed him. Only this morning he said there was little he could do for the child. That’s when we picked him up and rushed him to another hospital. He is in a critical condition,” he said, while seeking prayers for him.

Adnan Khan, a resident of the area, said he heard that four other children had died at the same hospital on Thursday, too. “There was just one doctor and he, too, was not here the entire time. So there was no one to tell when they ran out of oxygen for the children dependant on it. The children who died were in incubators,” he said.

“The parents whose children are still alive may have been too late in shifting them elsewhere. Due to lack of oxygen their babies turned almost grey. They may also not survive,” he added.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2014

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