Forty-nine infants died in a month in the Farrukhabad district hospital, most of them from "perinatal asphyxia", a condition in which a newborn has trouble breathing, officials said on Monday.
In a virtual replay of the tragedy in Gorakhpur, where 30 children died in two days in a state-run hospital last month, many of the parents in Farrukhabad told officials there was a delay in providing the infants with oxygen and medicines.
The state government today removed Farrukhabad District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar as well as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Umakant Pandey and Chief Medical Superintendent (CMS) Akhilesh Agarwal.
Principal secretary (health) Prashant Trivedi, however, said the deaths had "nothing to do with oxygen supply".
"Oxygen is not an issue in the entire episode. I think, of late, we are giving undue sensitivity to oxygen. It has become more of a buzzword," he told reporters at a hurriedly convened press briefing in the state headquarters.
An FIR against the CMO and the CMS was registered last night in Farrukhabad, about 180km from the state capital.
However, the state government said no action would be initiated against them on the basis of the FIR.
"The way things have been presented is not what happened. No action, therefore, is being initiated on the basis of the FIR registered against the CMO and the CMS," Trivedi said.
The Director General Medical Health would give a detailed report on the deaths, he added.
To a question on the removal of CMO Pandey and CMS Agarwal, Trivedi said, "They have been removed for the simple reason that the DM is the head of the administration in a district and they should have co-ordinated with the DM".
If there were any issues, those should had been brought to the notice of the administration, he said.
"What happened actually - medically or technically - will be clear in a probe," he added.
He also said that no official could elicit the views of a person over the telephone.
"This is not the right way to conduct a magisterial probe," Trivedi said, commenting on the city magistrate contacting on the phone the parents and relatives of the infants who had died.
Principal secretary (Information) Awanish Awasthi, who was also present, said, "No death took place due to lack of oxygen. The matter should not be blown out of proportion."
He said the DG Health would send a specialised team to investigate the deaths.
"There seems to be some co-ordinational issue among the officers. All the three officers -- DM, CMO and CMS -- have been removed. Everything will be brought forth," he said.
Referring to the FIR, he said, "It very clearly seems to have been lodged when the DM did not get the report from the health department".
The FIR was lodged against the CMO, CMS and other doctors but only the posts were mentioned and no one was named in the FIR.
It was lodged by the city magistrate last night under IPC sections 176 (legal provisions regarding inquiry by magistrate into cause of death), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 304 (culpable homicide).
A high-level team will be sent to Farrukhabad to probe the deaths and its technical aspects will also be taken care of, the official spokesperson said.
He said 468 deliveries took place in the women's wing of the hospital during the period. Of these, 19 were stillbirths.
City Magistrate Jaynendra Kumar Jain and SDM Ajit Kumar Singh said a probe found that most deaths were caused by breathing problems. They also said in the report that the CMO and the CMS did not cooperate with the investigation.
"During the period, 30 children died mostly due to perinatal asphyxia (a condition in which a child does not breathe normally just before, during, or after birth). During the probe, the parents said there was a delay in providing oxygen and medicine because of which the children died due to lack of supply of oxygen," the report stated.
The report did not mention the 19 other deaths.
Awasthi said, "...19 were stillborn children while 30 others died due to various causes, including perinatal asphyxia. This may be caused by the umbilical cord going around the neck of the child...Our medical team will look into it."
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's office took prompt notice of the matter after local news channels reported the deaths and directed the district magistrate to conduct a probe, the officials said.
The deaths in the Farrukhabad hospital come after at least 30 children died in a state-run hospital in Gorakhpur on August 10-11 amid allegations of oxygen shortage, a charge denied by the state government.
Meanwhile, doctors of Uttar Pradesh's Provincial Medical Services (PMS) today threatened to proceed on mass leave to protest the registration of the FIR against members of the fraternity.
They said they would not report for duty on Tuesday and Wednesday and would resign if the FIR was not withdrawn by September 7.
PMS members held a meeting in Farrukhabad and demanded that the FIR be withdrawn.
"The committee comprising the city magistrate and the SDM did not have technical knowledge. The probe report is wrong and it should be withdrawn," UP PMS district unit secretary Dr Yogendra Singh said.
He said the probe committee was a non-technical one and its "fairness and competence" should be probed.
"We have decided to proceed on mass leave on September 5 and 6. If our demands are not met, all the doctors of the district will resign on September 7," he said.
UP PMS Association president Dr Ashok Yadav told PTI in Lucknow, "The report on the basis of which the FIR was filed was prepared by non-technical people. A committee of experts should have been set up. This is an attempt to incite doctors, who are working in adverse conditions."
He said the government should recall those officers who did not have the knowledge needed for such probes.
"They should be properly trained. We are monitoring the situation there and will decide our future course of action," he said.