When Vijayawada-native Laxmi decided to shift her new-born to the intensive care unit (ICU) of a government-run hospital in the Guntur town of Andhra Pradesh, little did she know how devastating her decision would be.
On August 23, a group of rats attacked the ten-day-old boy inside the ICU, dragging large chunks of flesh and blood from his body, leaving him dead.
Black-and-white images flashed across television screens as many groups and individuals across the state were left in shock and called it a failure of the government to provide basic healthcare.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu himself was "shocked & deeply disturbed," and immediately ordered a probe.
The sanitation contractor was fired and the Guntur municipal corporation took over. Health minister Dr K Srinivasa Rao visited the hospital personally and so did several other ministers.
The hospital superintendent Dr Gopal was also transferred, pending investigation.
(Left: The baby that was attacked. Right: Laxmi. Screenshot/TV9 Telugu)
However, even after a massive initiative and officials catching as many as 400 rats in one session, the rodents still refused to leave.
Another patient G Rosamma, was undergoing treatment on September 18, when a rat bit her left hand's index finger. This incident occurred as a snake was seen near the canteen that morning by a group of sanitation personnel.
"Over long years of government apathy, a major public hospital allows its systems go to seed: the funds dry up, the equipment stutters and fails, supplies run out, maintenance is neglected, the lift stops working, the wiring is cellotaped, the orderlies go to sleep, doctors get harangued by patients, and rats begin to scurry about. And then a baby dies. Society is outraged, Ministers come by and suspend a doctor or two. And then someone says, â€śItâ€™s always like that in government hospitals.â€ť And next time that someone will take an ailing relative to a private hospital," P Sujatha Varma wrote in The Hindu.
That is exactly what happened as the hospital started losing patients and started losing them fast.
Worried by the declining trust despite preventive measures, around 550 government servants, including 50 district-level officers, On Wednesday, at 10 am, set aside their regular routine, and got to task on a 72-hour mission to rid the place of rats and snakes.
The mission which will end on Saturday is being personally supervised by the district collector.
"We took it as a prestigious affair to restore the reputation of this hospital. It was one of the best hospitals catering to the medical needs of the people of not only Guntur district but also from other parts of Andhra Pradesh," the collector tells Bangalore Mirror, while adding that a single rat will not be found after the operation.
The entire area has been divided into 50 blocks and a group-I officer is assigned one block each, along with 10 sanitary workers.
The district administration is also planning new buildings in place of the older structures, which are in dire need of renovation.