Blaming a section of the media for joining the opposition chorus over death of babies in state-run hospitals, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday dubbed it as 'rumour' since the child mortality rate has dropped in the state.
"It is a rumour intended to mislead the people. It is not a fact that children are dying in state-run hospitals due to negligence," Banerjee told reporters here during a visit to the Sunderbans.
Blaming a section of the media for spreading rumours she said, "they may be supporters of the AMRI hospital authorities where 94 patients died due to suffocation during the December 9 fire."
Stating that 50,000 babies die each year in the state because they were born at home, Banerjee said, "It is not due to hospital treatment that they are dying. They don't come to hospital. When they come, they are gasping. There is no scope of treating them."
Since last May when the new government took over, the child mortality rate in the state dropped from 31 per cent to 30 per cent, Banerjee said.
Citing figures she said, "This is lower than 46 per cent in Rajasthan, 47 per cent in Madhya Pradesh and 57 per cent in Gujarat. The child mortality rate is 30 per cent in Delhi.
"We have been able to reduce the child mortality rate by one per cent. I believe that if we can continue like this, we can decrease it by five to ten per cent within a year," she said.
Attributing the death of babies to under-nourishment, malnutrition and birth at home, the chief minister said, sometimes mothers as young as 12 or 13 years of age gave birth. "This is a social problem for which we will have to launch an awareness programme."
Lashing out at the previous Left front government for neglecting the health sector, she said "they did not disclose facts which led to death of babies."
Banerjee regretted that ally Congress was also politicking over the issue.
The chief minister said that her government had set up six new children units in state-run hospitals in the last eight months and would construct another 40 next year.