India: Broken Hospital Ventilators Kill 8,200 Children in Five Years

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By Vasudevan Sridharan | February 9, 2013 9:24 PM EST

Picture for representation purpose only.

More than 8,200 children are believed to have died over the last five years due to malfunctioning ventilators in one of the largest government-run hospitals in India.

Out of 18 ventilators for children at the Safdarjang Hospital in the Indian capital, New Delhi, five are not working, according to a whistle-blower.

Nearly 3,000 victims are believed to have been newborns while all the other children were below the age of five. The hospital admits more than 125,000 patients a year, according to its annual report. 

R H Bansal, who works for an NGO, has said that he received the casualty figures through the Right to Information Act of India. The act allows the public to scrutinise government and government-related documents.

The disclosure has forced the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to take action against the hospital and the officials concerned. The commission has asked for an explanation.

"The conditions were unhygienic and there was an acute shortage of essential services at the hospital," alleges Bansal, according to the NHRC.

Bansal has also alleged that many pregnant women have been losing their lives due to the poor conditions.

The exposure comes a day after three major hospitals in New Delhi came under scrutiny for allegedly conducting illegal drug trials on nearly 3,500 children over the last five years. 

The list of hospitals includes the Safdarjang medical facility, where more than 2,000 children were subjected to "illegal drug trials". Bansal alleges that parental permission was not sought.

"I had filed an RTI last year in October and was provided with this data. The illegal drug trials in Safdarjang Hospital were done in the paediatric department. The other two hospitals had not divulged which disciplines exactly had conducted these trials without the approval of the patients or their parents," Bansal said.

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