Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam Tuesday stoutly defended the doctors and healthcare facilities at its Dharmapuri Medical College hospital and asserted that the death of 11 infants was due to "natural" causes and not on account of medical negligence.
"Very young age of mothers, short interval between the pregnancies, low birth weight and pre-term delivery are the reasons for the death of 11 babies," he said after chairing an emergent meeting to review the death of infants with top officials of the health department.
The 11 deaths between November 14 and 17 triggered calls by opposition parties for a probe into the matter and action against those responsible.
The Chief Minister also outlined the steps taken after the deaths and the follow-up action put in place by the government.
"All the babies at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Dharmapuri are being specially monitored," he said.
A team of specialists, led by Director of Medical Education Dr Geetha Lakshmi has been dispatched to Dharmapuri to assist doctors in treating children undergoing treatment in the neo-natal ICU, he said.
Public Health Centres in Dharmapuri District have been instructed to send pregnant women with health complications on time to the Medical college hospital so that eventualities could be avoided.
Care during pregnancy will be strengthened by synergising the work of Village Health Nurses and Anganwadi workers.
Public health officials have been instructed to give more attention to underweight pregnant women, he said.
The Infant Mortality Rate in Tamil Nadu was 21 and for Dharmapuri it was only 19 per 1000 births, while the national average stood at 40 deaths, he said.
Stating that the government was pursuing several measures for welfare of ante-natal mothers and children, he said the government immediately sent a specialist Dr S Srinivasan from here to Dharmapuri after the death of five babies was first reported on November 14.
"His inspection has ruled out lacunae of any sort."
Of the 11 babies that died, seven were below 2.5 kilos and four between 1.2 to 1.75 kg and were pre-term babies.
Also, out of the 11 dead, eight babies were sent to the Dharmapuri Hospital for critical care.
Seven of the dead babies were females and four males, Panneerselvam said.