Nine newborn babies have died at the state-run VSS Medical College and Hospital in Burla the last 24 hours, leading the Odisha government to order an investigation.
"The nine deaths were reported in the neonatal care centre of hospital since Friday morning. All of them were kept in incubators as they were premature babies," Superintendent of the hospital, Dr Laxmikant Dash said.
Denying negligence by the hospital, he said most of the premature babies were seriously ill since birth, underweight, anaemic and with respiratory problems.
One of the babies weighed barely 560 gram and the deaths during a short span was only a coincidence, Dash said.
"However, the matter is being looked into and I have asked the head of the paediatric department to submit a report immediately," Dash said.
The Director Medical Education and Training and Sishu Bhawan director have been asked to inquire into the matter, Health Minister Damodar Rout said.
Preliminary reports indicated that most of the babies were ill since birth, but a clear picture would emerge after an inquiry, he said.
There was tension in the hospital as parents and relatives of the babies held the hospital authorities responsible. The Congress held a demonstration and road blockade in Burla against the deaths accusing the hospital authorities of negligence.
Senior Congress leader Sriballabh Panigrahi accused the Health Minister of neglecting the hospital and doing little to improve its infrastructure and facilities.
Senior BJP leader Jainarayan Mishra accused the BJD government of failing to improve the condition of the hospital where a large number of patients from different parts of the state and Chhattisgarh.