Kolkata: The saga of infant deaths continues with nine cases being reported over the past 12 hours at West Bengal's Malda Medical College and Hospital.

Of the nine babies that died yesterday, six were less than 28 days old.

Though the hospital authority refused to divulge details of the deaths in the past 36 hours, most of the babies were reportedly born in the hospital.

In January this year, 121 babies died in the hospital and by the end of the next month the figure rose to 205.

The state sent several teams to probe the matter and even a Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) was set up. But parents continue to complain of negligence, which was denied by the health department.

"My daughter was 22 days old. When she was brought in, she was ill but was conscious. However, after initial treatment there was no further follow-up and her condition worsened and no one took any notice," said Hafiz Ahmad, the girl's father.

Rising numbers

"It's too early to jump to conclusions that there has been a spurt in crib deaths at the hospital," Dr Asit Biswas, the official spokesperson of the State's Health Department told Gulf News.

"Of the nine babies that have died, seven were neo-natal's while the others were a few months old," he said adding that several of them born with very low birth weights.

Moreover, most of them were referred to the hospital from other facilities and might have arrived there in a moribund condition, he added.

"We will conduct a thorough inquiry into every case of an infant death to see if the proper treatment protocol was followed, which will be conducted this time as well. We have to ascertain if the death was preventable or not," he said.

Hospital authorities continue to blame the lack of work force as the main reason for such deaths.

"The present staff is almost half of our actual requirement. Especially on weekends, it becomes more acute since a number of staff take their weekly off making the situation quite difficult," a senior resident doctor said

"The supply of medicines and other equipment have improved, but to overcome shortage of manpower so quickly is quite difficult," the doctor added.