The Assam Health and Family Welfare Department has sent a team of experts to government-run Jorhat Medical College and Hospital after 16 newborns died at the hospital over the past nine days, NDTV reported on Friday.

Commissioner and Secretary of State Health and Family Welfare Department Samir Sinha told The Indian Express that 16 deaths were reported from the hospital since November 1. This included two children who were brought dead to the hospital.

A preliminary report of the inquiry is expected to be released on Saturday. “A team has been sent to Jorhat; it also has a member of UNICEF [United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund]. They will send a report,” Assam’s Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

Jorhat Medical College and Hospital Superintendent Saurav Borkakoti said the deaths occurred at the special care newborn unit of the hospital. He denied medical negligence or neglect on the part of hospital authorities.

“Sometimes the number of patients coming to the hospital may be large and so the figure of death of newborns may also be large,” Borkakoti told PTI. “It depends in what situation the patients have come to the hospital. They may have come with prolonged labour, with low birth weight. In such circumstances, those newborns may die.”

Unidentified officials told The Indian Express that the special newborn unit at the hospital can admit up to 40 patients. Between November 1 and November 6, 84 patients were admitted at the unit. On Friday, 70 children were undergoing treatment at the ward.

Sinha said six to eight deaths are reported in a week when 40 patients are admitted. “During this period [November 1-6], higher than normal number of patients were admitted at the hospital,” he said, adding that he is closely monitoring the situation.

Borkakoti said the number of patients admitted in the hospital has exceeded the 141-bed capacity ever since it was converted into a full-fledged medical college and hospital. He said this has forced hospital authorities to sometimes accommodate more babies.

Head of the Paediatrics department Dr Pranabjit Biswanath said there was no lapse on the part of hospital authorities. “The number of patients was double than the usual and the condition of some of the newborns was really bad…. We tried out best and the deaths are really unfortunate.”