49 deaths, 48 hours, 2 hospitals: Maha CM denies shortage of medicines as govt comes under fire

Dr Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College and Hospital
The signboard of Dr Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College and Hospital. Photo: PTI

Mumbai: The 49 deaths reported from two government hospitals in two days in Maharashtra's Nanded and Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar districts has put the Eknath Shinde government in a spot in the State.

A furious opposition on Tuesday termed it 'murder' and demanded criminal action against those responsible.

Talking to reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting here, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said adequate medicine stock and medical staff were available at the hospital. Many of the deceased were old people with heart ailments, underweight infants or accident victims, he added. "The deaths are unfortunate. We have taken the incident very seriously. An inquiry has been ordered and action will be taken appropriately," the chief minister said.

Facing the opposition outcry, the Eknath Shinde government sent ministers Girish Mahajan and Hasan Mushrif to Nanded to assess the situation and a panel has been set up to probe the 31 deaths recorded in barely 36 hours at the Dr Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College & Hospital there.

Another embarrassment cropped up for the ruling alliance on Tuesday with reports of at least 18 more deaths including two infants from the Government Hospital in Ghati, Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (ex-Aurangabad), triggering a fresh Opposition onslaught.

Maharashtra Medical Education Minister Hasan Mushrif on Tuesday said the death of a large number of patients at a government hospital in Nanded district will be inquired to establish the cause and promised things will improve at the facility in the next 15 days.

Talking to reporters in Nanded, Mushrif said there was no shortage of medicines at the hospital and maintained that if the deaths have occurred due to anyone's negligence, action will be taken against that person. "Every death case at Nanded's Government Medical College and Hospital will be investigated individually by a committee. There are shortcomings and we will overcome them. Change will be visible (at the facility) in the next 15 days," he said. Mushrif and Nanded's Guardian Minister Girish Mahajan addressed a press conference in Nanded after visiting the hospital. Mushrif said the hospital has a sanctioned bed strength of around 500, but nearly 1,000 patients were admitted in the facility and these included underweight babies in critical condition. The Medical Education Minister said, "There was a sudden rise in admission of patients as there were holidays and private health facilities were shut. The post of hospital dean will be filled immediately. The hospital is spread across a big area and it needs to be cleaned. We shall see if cleaning work can be outsourced." Mushrif said if there is a shortfall of doctors at the hospital, private physicians can be hired. "But hospital officials said there was no response to an advertisement for filling up vacant posts. Manpower and infrastructure of the facility need to be increased and upgraded," he said.

Opposition onslaught
Chief Minister Shinde, Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, and Health Minister Tanaji Sawant came under severe fire from the Congress’ Leader of Opposition Vijay Wadettiwar, state chief Nana Patole, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, Working President Supriya Sule, state chief Jayant Patil, Shiv Sena-UBT's Aditya Thackeray, Sanjay Raut, Sushma Andhare, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray and spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi President Prakash Ambedkar and other parties/leaders.

Top Congress leaders from the centre including party President Mallikarjun Kharge, MP Rahul Gandhi, and General Secretary Priyanka Vadra also reacted strongly to the incidents in Maharashtra.

“The government has not learnt lessons from the 18 deaths in a single night at the state-run Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Hospital in Thane in mid-August," Congress state chief Nana Patole said.

"There’s an outrage among the people… it's evident that the Shinde-Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar government is totally indifferent and thick-skinned and all the more troubling that these deaths occurred due to lack of medicines and other essentials," he said.

"Instead of spending on these much-needed medicines and requirements, the government has money for self-glorifying events, advertisements and buying political leaders. The police should register 'murder cases' against all those responsible," he demanded.

Sule also labelled the deaths of so many patients as "state murders" and demanded that Health Minister Tanaji Sawant must be made to resign, and compensation for the kin of the victims.

Other leaders spoke on how the public health system is riddled with corruption, idling or non-functional equipment, erratic supply of medicines, inadequate medical and para-medical staff, and other problems, making them "death traps".

"Some officials demanded 40 percent commissions on deals, the government failed to procure medicines on time and funds of Rs 600 crore for 2022 lapsed. In the CM’s home town (Thane) though so many deaths took place (August), there is no progress on the probe panel set up till now…" said Patole.

Dr Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College and Hospital
People stand in queue at Dr Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College and Hospital . Photo: PTI

(With IANS, PTI inputs.)

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