Ahmedabad: The Gujarat government on Sunday ordered a probe into the deaths of 20 newborn babies, of which nine died in a span of just 24 hours, at the state's main hospital here, triggering a controversy.
The babies were reportedly kept in the NICU ward of the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.
"Of the nine deaths in the 24 hours, five babies were referred from distant places and were having severe life-threatening conditions," the government said in a statement.
A doctor at the hospital said the babies were referred with critical conditions such as severe birth asphyxia, low weight, hyaline membrane disease and septicemia.
Hospital Superintendent M M Prabhakar said two more babies have died since last night at the facility, taking the toll to 20 over the past three days.
"While a newborn died of cancer, another succumbed to complications arising out of extremely low birth weight," Prabhakar said.
Meanwhile, the state government has formed a committee to probe the matter.
Reacting to the tragedy, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said strict action will be taken against those responsible.
"We have asked for an investigation into each of the nine cases and will be able to comment after that," Rupani told reporters after visiting the hospital.
The three-member committee will be headed by Deputy Director of Medical Education R K Dixit, the release said.
Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare department, Jayanti Ravi said the condition of some of the babies had already deteriorated and they had to be referred to the civil hospital here from distant places as doctors there might still be on Diwali vacation.
The committee will look into the reasons for the deaths and it is expected to submit its report in a day, she said.
"Being the main hospital in the state, all complicated cases are referred here," she added.
The average number of deaths of newborns at the Ahmedabad civil hospital is around five to six per day, the release added.
Meanwhile, members of opposition Congress protested outside the office of the superintendent of the hospital over the infant deaths.
A similar incident had rocked Assam early this month.
Eight newborn babies had died at the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College Hospital (FAAMC) in Assam's Barpeta district in a span of two days, triggering a major controversy.
The Assam government had ordered an inquiry into the deaths.
Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said there were adequate medicines in the hospital and despite the doctors' best efforts, they could not save them.
(With agency inputs)