Hindustan Times (Patna) - - FRONT PAGE - Sa­gar­nil Mukher­jee ■ let­ters@hin­dus­tan­

MALDA: Death is stalk­ing the neona­tal ward of West Ben­gal’s Malda Med­i­cal Col­lege and Hospi­tal (MMCH) again.

Over the last six days, 24 new­borns have died — five ba­bies have died within 24 hours alone.

The hospi­tal has been hit­ting the head­lines reg­u­larly over baby deaths (see box). But the au­thor­i­ties claimed the death rate was not ab­nor­mal.

“The fig­ure is look­ing high be­cause of the high num­ber of ad­mis­sions, which far ex­ceeds our ca­pac­ity,” said Uch­hal Bhadra, prin­ci­pal, MMCH. There are 30 beds in the neona­tal ward and 46 in the pae­di­atric ward. But now, 156 ba­bies are ad­mit­ted in the pae­di­atric ward alone.

“Be­sides, in win­ters, the neona­tal mor­tal­ity rate is high. So many ba­bies came at the last moment, when the doc­tors could do lit­tle,” Bhadra said.

The par­ents, how­ever, ac­cused the hospi­tal of ne­glect.

“My 22-day-old son was suf­fer­ing from breath­less­ness and high fever. Last night, he died here, prac­ti­cally with­out treat­ment,” said Afroza Bibi, a res­i­dent of Malda-Kali­achak.

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