At least four children admitted at B C Roy Hospital here died due to acute respiratory infections in the past 24 hours, a senior health official said on Friday.

According to sources, a one-year-old boy from Machlandpur, a six-month-old girl from Kamalgazi and a 10-month-old girl from Maina in Barasat died Friday morning, while 11-month-old boy, who was referred to B C Roy Hospital from Sashan in North 24 Paraganas district, died on Thursday.

All the children were admitted with symptoms of fever, cold, cough and shortness of breath and they had been suffering from fever for more than a week, said sources.

A BJP delegation led by councillor Sajal Ghosh and party leader Archana Majumdar visited the hospital to take stock of the situation. “At least 1,000 kids are admitted on 500 beds. There is massive mismanagement and the numbers of doctors are not adequate,” said Majumdar.

“Government has no intention to fight the situation. Only B C Roy Hospital is providing treatment for Adenovirus infection in Bengal. Children from Murshidabad and South 24 Paraganas have to come here for treatment,” said Ghosh.

State Minister Firhad Hakim, on the other hand, accused the Opposition of doing politics over the issue. “They are politicising it. The CM has already spoken about it. There has been no death in Kolkata. All referral cases are getting fatal,” said Hakim, who is also Kolkata’s Mayor.

While sources with the health department claimed that more than 50 children had already died, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said that of the 12 deaths of children reported in the state in February, only
two were due to Adenovirus while the rest died due to comorbidities.

In the past couple of months, respiratory disease due to viral infections has affected all age groups, but it proved fatal to younger children, especially children less than 5 years of age.

Medical Service Centre, a national-level medical Socio Medical voluntary organisation, protested outside Swastha Bhawan on Friday, demanding immediate action to prevent the further surge of the virus.

“This outbreak has again exposed the pathetic condition of healthcare in our state. Severe scarcity of beds, medicines and manpower in government hospitals led to the death of children. There are inadequate numbers of beds in general and paediatric CCUs and ICU, respiratory ICUs in government hospitals. Four-five critically ill children with respiratory failure are being treated in a single bed. This situation has led doctors and other staff to treat patients in emergency ward beds. As a result, doctors and nurses are overburdened. Moreover, just like the pandemic period, the government is absolving itself of all responsibilities by denying the cause of death and stating that the deaths are due to ‘other comorbidities’,” reads a statement issued by Medical Service Centre.

The organisation has demanded the government to provide urgent adequate beds and medicines necessary to control this outbreak, and awareness campaigns and outpatient services to meet the requirement of the situation.
The organisation has also demanded to set up paediatric ICUs in government hospitals on a war footing to prevent further deaths, appoint trained doctors and nurses and healthcare workers immediately in government hospitals to reduce the manpower crisis, and prior surveillance activity should be strengthened state-wide to control such epidemic.

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