Medical staff attend to a child at the Gorakhpur hospital. Photo: AFP
At least 18 newborn babies have died at a government-run hospital in Ahmedabad in the last three days in Gujarat, India.
Nine of these deaths took place on Saturday, New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) reported.
The government and hospital have denied negligence and attributed it to natural causes.
The government said on Sunday, "Of the nine deaths in 24 hours, five babies were referred from distant places -- Lunawada, Surendranagar, Mansa, Viramgam, Himmatnagar -- and were suffering from life threatening conditions such as extremely low birth weight (around 1.1 kg), hyaline membrane disease, the early onset of septicemia and disseminated intra-vascular coagulation." The four born at the hospital fell prey to lethal complications, such as severe birth asphyxia and meconium aspiration, India Today reported.
The average daily deaths is from five to six babies in the Ahmedabad hospital, hospital sources told NDTV. They added that fewer doctors are on duty at medical centers because of the post-Diwali holidays.
The government has formed a three-member committee to probe the deaths.
An child suffering from Japanese Encephalitis lies on a bed at The Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur. Photo: AFP
Similar deaths have occurred in another state in north India. At least 68 children died in the state -run Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Uttar Pradesh in the past four days, The Times of India reported. 42 died at the neonatal intensive care unit and 24 at the pediatric intensive care unit. 64 babies died in the same hospital within six days in August due to a lack of oxygen.
Over 100 children died within three months in northern India.
The Hindustan Times reported that there are four possible reasons for the frequent deaths, and why most of them have occurred in northern India. It said the main reasons are the lack of basic facilities, disease, high infant mortality rate and a poor public health system.
Northern India is a poor region and hundreds of child deaths are caused by disease, including encephalitis, the report added.
The Indian government has failed to address the shortage of staff and clinics, and the problems are compounded by cases of shoddy medical treatment, the report said.
A father mourns the death of his child outside Baba Raghav Das Hospital in Gorakhpur. Photo: AFP