12 Pregnant Women Die in Indian Hospital, Contaminated IV Fluids Suspected

Twelve pregnant women died in 10 days in an Indian government hospital, with contaminated fluids administered during childbirth suspected to be the cause, reports said Friday.

Another five women were in serious condition, according to doctors at Umaid Hospital in the city of Jodhpur, in a case that highlights the often-poor standards of care in state-run health facilities in India.

The first death occurred Feb. 13, and a meeting of leading doctors that was held three days later failed to identify the cause, The Indian Express newspaper reported, citing doctors and officials at the hospital.

"All the women died after severe hemorrhaging, and for now, we believe the cause might be an infection after they were administered tainted IV fluids," Umaid Hospital superintendent N.G. Chaggani told the newspaper.

Police lodged a case against the local company that supplied the fluids and the Indian manufacturer.

"We have begun our investigation and are checking the suspected stock," Jodhpur police commissioner Bhupendra Kumar Dak told the Times of India newspaper.

India has a two-speed medical system in which shabby and often insanitary state facilities coexist with state-of-the-art private hospitals that cater for wealthy overseas medical tourists who visit India for low-cost surgery.

In July, Indian news channel NDTV reported that at least eight children were infected with HIV by blood transfusions given at Umaid Hospital in the previous six months, while 43 contracted Hepatitis C.

In addition to poor standards of care, most Indians are required to pay for their health care out of their own pockets, with the state and insurance companies picking up just a fraction of overall spending.

A major study published in January in British medical journal The Lancet said payments by individuals accounted for 71.1 percent of spending on health, with 39 million Indians pushed back below the poverty line each year because of the cost of care.