Kota was rocked by the death of 12 infants this week, two of them on Friday, in a government hospital, prompting Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla to urge Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to act "sensitively" on the issue.
According to a report by the superintendent of J K Lon Hospital, where all the deaths occurred, 77 children died this month itself till December 24, while a total of 940 infants died this year.
Acting on the report of deaths, which Kota's J K Lone Hospital authorities earlier described as "not an unusual trend", Gehlot rushed state Health Secretary Vaibhav Galriya to take stock of the situation.
Galriya reached on Friday afternoon and after initial enquiries, formed a three-member panel to investigate the spate of deaths and directed it to submit a report within 48 hours, promising "action" against the erring doctors after its receipt.
Out of the ten infants, who died between December 23 and 24, five were newborns while the other five were up to one year old, officials said later.
"Action against the officials held responsible for the deaths would be initiated following receipt of the detailed report by the high-level committee set up to investigate the matter," said Galriya.
The reports of a spate of infants' death in a government hospital in his constituency prompted Lok Sabha speaker to take to Twitter to express his concern and urge the state chief minister to act "sensitively" on the issue.
"The untimely death of ten infants in 48 hours in J K Lon Mother and Child Hospital in my Lok Sabha constituency is a matter of grave concern. The Rajasthan government ought to act sensitively and promptly on the matter," Birla said on his Twitter handle at 4.59 pm.
Gehlot, however, had rushed state Health Secretary Galriya to Kota by then.
Galriya told reporters that a three-member committee, comprising Additional Principal of SMS Hospital, Jaipur and two professors, has been set up to thoroughly investigate the deaths of ten children this week in the hospital.
The probe would cover all issues, including the cause of death, and determine the negligence, if any, of the medical officials and behind the deaths.
The committee will submit its report within next 48 hours, he said.
During his preliminary enquiries, Galriya also detected a slew of systematic and infrastructural deficiencies plaguing the hospital.
The deficiencies included the inadequate supply of oxygen to the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, infection-prone wards devoid of regular fumigation and upkeep measures and inadequate upkeep of vital medical equipment, he said.
The hospital, meanwhile, in its initial report on the death of 10 kids between December 23 and 24, claimed that five newborns, who died on the two days, were just a day old, and had been brought to the hospital in critical conditions.
"They were suffering from Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, due to which an infant's brain fails to receive adequate oxygen and leads to septicemia. They had taken their last breath within a few hours of their admission," the report said.
The report added that a five-month-old baby died due to severe pneumonia on December 23 while a seven-year-old child died of acute respiratory distress syndrome
"The third victim, a 45-day-old baby died of complex cyanotic congenital heart disease," it said.
"Besides, a two-month-old kid succumbed to severe pneumonia and another one-and-a-half-year-old baby died of seizure disorder with aspiration on December 24," it said.
Refuting the allegations of negligence behind the death of kids, hospital superintendent H L Meena said the deaths were normal and none of them died because of negligence by the hospital.
Terming the deaths of ten kids within 48 hours "not an unusual trend", the head of hospital's Pediatrics Department, Dr Amrit Lal Bairwa said at least one to three children die daily at the hospital as it a referral hospital where kids are brought in severe and critical conditions from adjoining Bundi, Baran, Jhalawar districts and from various cities in Madhya Pradesh.
According to the National Neonatal Intensive Care Unit records, 20 per cent deaths of infants are acceptable, whereas the death per cent in Kota is 10-15 per cent which is not at all alarming as most of the infants were rushed to the hospital in severe critical conditions, Dr Bairwa added, defending the hospital.
Kota District Collector Om Kasera too defended the hospital and told media that the initial investigation revealed that the ten kids, who died early this week were brought to the hospital in critical conditions after having been referred from other hospitals in nearby districts.