Manager arrested over Indian maternity deaths

Indian police have arrested the manager of a company that made intravenous fluids suspected of killing 13 pregnant women at a state-run hospital, they said on Monday.

The 13 women died days after giving birth, sparking an investigation into  allegedly contaminated intravenous fluids used at Umaid Hospital in the popular tourist town of Jodhpur. 

Four more pregnant women who received drips at the hospital are in intensive care in a scandal that highlights the often poor standards of state-run health facilities in India.

The deaths occurred over a 13-day period from February 13, senior hospital doctor Narendra Changani told AFP.

"After they died, the fluids were tested and bacteria was found to be present," he said.

Jodhpur assistant superintendent of police Jyoti Swaroop Sharma said officers had arrested Sanjay Shah, manager of Parental Surgical India Private Limited, the manufacturer of the fluids, in connection with the deaths.

He gave no details of the alleged case against Shah.

Office worker Ashish, who only uses one name, 24, lost his wife Premsheela on February 21, five days after she gave birth to their daughter.

"She died because of these doctors, their negligence. Because of them my daughter will now grow up without a mother watching over her," he said.

State chief minister Ashok Gehlot paid a visit to the hospital Sunday in an attempt to placate the victims' distraught relatives.

An AFP reporter on the scene said more than 100 people were present at the hospital when Gehlot arrived and told them he would "take strict action against those responsible for these deaths."

Gehlot also pledged 500,000 rupees (ê11,000) in compensation to each victim's family and said a three-person medical team would be sent immediately from New Delhi to investigate the deaths.

Umaid Hospital came under fire last year after investigations by rights group Marwar Thalassaemia Society found children had been infected with HIV and Hepatitis C via contaminated blood transfusions.

More women -- about 100,000 -- die during pregnancy and childbirth in India than anywhere else in the world every year, according to the World Health Organization.

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