Forty-nine infants died in a month in the Farrukhabad district hospital, most of them from “perinatal asphyxia”, a condition in which a newborn has trouble breathing, officials said today.

In a virtual replay of the tragedy in Gorakhpur, where 30 children died in two days in a State-run hospital last month, many of the parents in Farrukhabad told officials there was a delay in providing the infants with oxygen and medicines.

The hospital recorded 49 deaths — 30 in neo-natal ICU and 19 during delivery — between July 20 and August 21, a government spokesperson said in Lucknow.

The State government today removed Farrukhabad District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar as well as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Umakant Pandey and Chief Medical Superintendent (CMS) Akhilesh Agarwal.

Principal secretary (health) Prashant Trivedi, however, said the deaths had “nothing to do with oxygen supply”.

“Oxygen is not an issue in the entire episode. I think, of late, we are giving undue sensitivity to oxygen. It has become more of a buzzword,” he told reporters at a hurriedly convened press briefing in the state headquarters.

FIR registered

An FIR against the CMO and the CMS was registered last night in Farrukhabad, about 180km from the State capital.

However, the State government said no action would be initiated against them on the basis of the FIR. “The way things have been presented is not what happened. No action, therefore, is being initiated on the basis of the FIR registered against the CMO and the CMS,” Trivedi said. The Director General Medical Health would give a detailed report on the deaths, he added.

To a question on the removal of CMO Pandey and CMS Agarwal, Trivedi said, “They have been removed for the simple reason that the DM is the head of the administration in a district and they should have co-ordinated with the DM”. If there were any issues, those should had been brought to the notice of the administration, he said.

“What happened actually — medically or technically — will be clear in a probe,” he added.

He also said that no official could elicit the views of a person over the telephone.

“This is not the right way to conduct a magisterial probe,” Trivedi said, commenting on the city magistrate contacting on the phone the parents and relatives of the infants who had died.

Principal secretary (Information) Awanish Awasthi, who was also present, said, “No death took place due to lack of oxygen. The matter should not be blown out of proportion.”

He said the DG Health would send a specialised team to investigate the deaths.

Doctors to go leave

Meanwhile, doctors of Uttar Pradesh’s Provincial Medical Services (PMS) today threatened to proceed on mass leave to protest the registration of the FIR against members of the fraternity.

They said they would not report for duty on Tuesday and Wednesday and would resign if the FIR was not withdrawn by September 7.

PMS members held a meeting in Farrukhabad and demanded that the FIR be withdrawn.

“The committee comprising the city magistrate and the SDM did not have technical knowledge. The probe report is wrong and it should be withdrawn,” UP PMS district unit secretary Yogendra Singh said.

He said the probe committee was a non-technical one and its “fairness and competence” should be probed.

“We have decided to proceed on mass leave on September 5 and 6. If our demands are not met, all the doctors of the district will resign on September 7,” he said.

UP PMS Association president Ashok Yadav told PTI in Lucknow, “The report on the basis of which the FIR was filed was prepared by non-technical people. A committee of experts should have been set up. This is an attempt to incite doctors, who are working in adverse conditions.”

He said the government should recall those officers who did not have the knowledge needed for such probes.