Investigators from the Punjab health department have concluded that the deaths of eight infants at the Sahiwal DHQ Hospital late Saturday and early Sunday did not occur due to the air conditioner in the children’s ward not working.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had taken notice of the incident and ordered a committee to submit a report. The report was also to be submitted to the health secretary whom Sahiwal Deputy Commissioner Zaman Watu had first informed about the incident in a letter.
Watu called for action against the hospital for not fixing the air conditioner and failing to make other arrangements. The air conditioner at the ward wasn’t working for 16 hours.
The hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr Shahid Nazir, says that five of the children died before the air conditioner stopped working. He says only three infants died during the time the air conditioner wasn’t working.
Dr Nazir denied reports run by 92 News that 16 children had died at the hospital. We have 18 beds and 44 infant admitted at the hospital, he said. Children are referred to the hospital from all over the district, he added.
The hospital has identified the causes of death for those three children. One child who was admitted on May 31 died of respiratory distress syndrome and low birth weight, one who was admitted on June 1 died of asphyxiation and the third child, identified as 11-month-old Iman died due to third degree malnutrition and meningitis. Dr Nazir said the first two infants were born premature and suffered issues since birth.
Dr Nazir also said that the ward has 10 air conditioners, of which only one wasn’t working. There was a compressor issue and it has now been replaced, he said.
Additional Health Secretary Rafaqat Ali visited the hospital on Sunday and said it seemed as if five children did indeed die before the air conditioner malfunctioned. He initially didn’t comment on the cause of any of the eight infants’ deaths and said he has summoned their death certificates and the reports from the ward.
He said he was investigating the deaths of children between 9pm and 11am, purportedly when the AC was not working.
He and his deputy secretary took the statements of the doctors and paramedics in the ward. He is part of the investigation committee that has been directed to present a report today (Sunday).
In his report, which was also submitted to the health minister, he cleared the hospital of negligence and said two of the three children who died were brought to the hospital in critical condition from other hospitals. He concluded that it would not be factual to say the infants died due to the malfunctioning air conditioner.