Saviour machines become death-trap for Punjab infants (Roundup)

January 31st, 2009 - 11:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghPatiala (Punjab), Jan 31 (IANS) The phototherapy units of the Rajindra Medical College and Hospital in this Punjab town were to save children from jaundice at birth but they became death traps for five infants Saturday.Those who died were between four to six days old and were recuperating at the hospital from jaundice.

Five more infants received serious burn injuries.

The mothers of most infants had given them feed just minutes before a phototherapy tubelight burst with a loud sound and the whole children’s ward was on fire - charring five of the infants.

Had it not been for the bravery shown by Surjit Singh and Amar Singh, who rushed into the burning room and broke window panes to get the smoke out and later used blankets to save some of the infants, the toll would have been much higher.

One seriously burnt infant was rushed to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) at Chandigarh, about 90 km away.

Five other infants who received serious burn injuries were out of danger, said doctors.

The shattered families of the victims are inconsolable.

Patiala resident Geeta Devi, who had spent all her money for the treatment of her six-day old son, said that life had played a cruel joke.

“I wish I could die myself. We could do nothing to save the innocent soul,” she cried outside the hospital.

Families of most of the children are from poor backgrounds and had come to the hospital as it enjoys a good reputation for medical services in the region.

Charanjit Kaur from Kaithal town said: “Those responsible for this incident should be severely punished. They have made our lives miserable.”

The doctors at the hospital said that the phototherapy tubelight could have burst due to overheating or short-circuit. They did not rule out that the tubelight could be of poor quality.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal ordered a judicial probe into the incident by a retired high court judge. He also immediately suspended the Rajindra Medical College and Hospital principal, Jaswinderpal Kaur Shergill.

Badal announced a grant of Rs 100,000 to families of the victims.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is recuperating after coronary bypass surgery, expressed shock at the loss of innocent lives. He sanctioned Rs.100,000 each for the families of the deceased from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, an official said.

Patiala range Divisional Commissioner Jasbir Singh Bir told IANS that a tubelight used for treatment in the phototherapy unit burst Saturday morning, which led to the fire in the room where the infants were kept.

Two of the victims belonged to Kaithal town and one to Sirsa town in neighbouring Haryana. One victim was from Patiala, while another one was from a village near Patiala.

Amritpal Singh, resident of a village near here, said that his six-day old son’s death had left his family in shock.

“I cannot even face my wife who is admitted in this very hospital,” he added.

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