Kolkata: Five more infants died on Friday at West Bengal government-run Malda Sadar Hospital, taking the toll to 40 in the last ten days. The fresh deaths have triggered a debate over the role of the state health machinery as this is the third such incident since November 2011.

The hospital authorities said that infants were brought in a critical condition while four of them were less than 15 days old. The doctors said that all the infants suffered from low weight.

After this shocking incident, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has demanded immediate infrastructure upgradation at the Malda government hospital.

NCPCR chairperson Shantha Sinha said, “There is an immediate requirement of improving the basic infrastructures in West Bengal hospitals.”

Malda government hospital superintendent said, “Infants were brought in a critical condition. The children suffered from low weight, pneumonia and birth asphyxia and there wasn't enough time to treat them.”

He further claimed that infants are being properly fed and cared in the hospital.

The Malda district hospital is the only state-run health-care facility in the entire region and patients from adjacent areas are referred to this particular hospital. Malda district hospital caters to over 33 lakh population of the district, besides the residents of other districts such as South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur and Murshidabad.

The hospital is reeling under severe staff shortage - both in terms of doctors and paramedics.

The total population of West Bengal crosses 9 crore.

According to the data released by the state government, around 71 percent of the total population in the state depends on government hospitals.

The patient-nursing staff ratio, which should ideally be 5:1, is almost 40:1.

It seems that the ruling TMC government has not taken any concrete action to improve the state of affairs. However, state Health Ministry has sought for a report from the hospital. Health Ministry officials assured that efforts are being taken to generate awareness in the rural areas.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, recently in an attempt to address the problem has announced to add 3,000 beds in each district hospital.