Chandigarh: The Punjab government Monday ordered the suspension of a lady doctor and initiated an inquiry into the death of five still born babies at a government hospital in Ludhiana.

The doctor, Alka Mittal, a gynaecologist, was placed under suspension after preliminary enquiries revealed that she did not come to the Civil Hospital in Ludhiana on time Sunday, forcing the hospital staff to carry out the deliveries.

The hospital’s Senior Medical Officer (SMO) R.K. Karkara was also transferred.

Five new born babies died during delivery leading to protests from affected families. The babies died during or just after delivery.

The mother and child care unit of the hospital had been inaugurated recently.

Affected families alleged that no doctors were available for delivery of the pregnant mothers and the hospital staff started conducting the procedure leading to the deaths. They alleged that the infants died due to negligence of hospital doctors and staff.

State Health Minister Surjit Kumar Jayani had ordered a probe against Mittal Sunday evening.

Mittal had been charge sheeted by the state health department earlier this month for negligence.

Jayani told media after visiting the hospital Monday that a high level probe has been ordered into the deaths of the infants.

“Deputy Commissioner Ludhiana, Rajat Agarwal has been asked to hold a thorough inquiry and submit the report to the government within a week. He has also been asked to have his own team of officers to hold an independent inquiry into the entire incident,” he said.

“Dr. Alka Mittal, a gynecologist who was already charge sheeted a few days back for negligence in discharging her duties, has been placed under suspension with immediate effect. The SMO, R.K.Karkara, has been transferred for not maintaining discipline in the medical institution,” he said.

Jayani, however, said though a thorough probe has been ordered into the incident, but “the deaths were natural as babies did not have any heartbeat when the mothers were brought to hospital. The doctors present at the time of procedure did try their best to save lives”.

Mittal claimed that the five delivery cases were already in critical condition when the mothers were brought to the hospital. However, she could not justify her absence during duty hours and why the hospital staff had to carry out the deliveries instead of doctors.

Terming the incident as “unfortunate”, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal told media in Amritsar Monday that he had ordered an enquiry into the incident.

“If laxity was found on the part of any public servant in dealing with this incident, action would be taken as per law,” he said.