KARACHI - Inadequate facilities at a private hospital in Karachi caused death of nine newborns over past two days. Seven of them died only in an hour.

The infants died primarily because ventilators at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of Korangi’s Shah Neonatal Children Hospital ran out of oxygen after a power breakdown.

Enraged parents along with the locals protested against the hospital administration and blocked the Korangi crossing road. The protestors carrying dead bodies along also attacked the hospital property and caused some damage.

Police and rangers reached at the scene to control law and order situation and shut down the hospital to avoid any further damage. Remaining infant patients at the hospital were transferred to other hospitals.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah took notice of the incident and directed police and Health Department to inquire about the incident. Initially, a special inquiry committee had been formed and at least two of hospital staffers were taken into custody.

According to reports, the deceased babies were in the incubators and they are said to have died after a power failure choked the oxygen supply to the NICU. It is said that two children died Thursday night while seven more died on Friday.

The grieved families demanded the provincial government take strict action against the hospital administration and give the responsible exemplary punishment. The deaths of the newborns have once again opened a discussion on the health issues in the country.

Talking to The Nation, Dr Qaiser Sajjad, a central leader of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), strongly condemned the incident and said that majority of private hospitals in slum areas are working without qualified staff and proper equipment. These types of hospitals lack basic health facilities, including laboratory, machines, equipments, trained paramedical staff, emergency facilities etc, he maintained.

“The political leadership of federal and provincial governments has not shown any commitment or political will to address the real health issues in Pakistan. The health of the nation has been held hostage to political point scoring and corruption, more so with increased donor funding,” he said. Dr Sajjad urged the provincial government to immediately implement the Sindh Health Commission Bill in the province.

According to PMA's Health Report 2013, “One child dies every minute from EPI disease, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection. As many as 400,000 infants die in first year of life every year. Even worse, the under-five mortality rate remains high at 95.2/1000 and infant mortality rate at an abeyance 65.1/1000.