The Bombay High Court on Wednesday took cognisance of deaths at two government hospitals in Nanded and Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar districts of Maharashtra, The Hindu reported.

A division bench of Chief Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyay and Justice Arif Doctor stated that deaths due to a shortage of staff and medicines could not go on.

“If there are deaths due to lack of manpower and shortage of medicines, it cannot be tolerated at all,” the court said.

This came after an advocate named Mohit Khanna wrote a letter to the court urging it to take up the matter.

Khanna referred to the deaths of 31 patients, including 16 children, at the Shankarrao Chavan Government Hospital within two days in Nanded.

The court told Advocate General Birendra Saraf to gather data about the vacancies, the availability of medicines and the extent of government spending in the hospital.

The case will be heard further on Friday.

Hospital deaths

After reports of the deaths in Nanded came out, the hospital’s dean Dr SR Wakode claimed that the recent transfer of staff led to a manpower shortage at the hospital and made managing a sudden surge in patients difficult.

He also said that the Haffkine Institute, responsible for procuring medicines for government hospitals across Maharashtra, had stopped the supply of drugs, adding to their problem.

“We tried to manage and buy the medicines locally, but it was not enough,” said the dean. “Since this is the only major hospital in the radius of 60-70 km, we are under a severe load and our sanctioned budget is not enough to buy medicines locally.”

At the Government Medical College and Hospital in Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar, 14 patients, including two newborns, died within 24 hours between October 2 and 3, reported NDTV.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde took cognisance of the deaths and ordered a high-level inquiry. “The guilty will be punished after the findings of the probe committee,” he said.

Khanna, in his letter to the court, highlighted news reports and statements by doctors about the shortage of staff and essential medicines, Live Law reported.

“While the government of Maharashtra appears to have initiated an enquiry regarding the incidents, one can only imagine the plight of the citizens who cannot afford healthcare and are dependent on the government for the same as well the relatives of those beavered,” he wrote.

He also referred to the 18 deaths recorded at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial Hospital, operated by the Thane Municipal Corporation in Kalwa, in August.