Twenty-four people, including six infant boys and six newborn girls, were reported dead between 30 September and 1 October at the Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College and Hospital in Nanded district, located 620km east of Mumbai in the western state of Maharashtra.
The toll rose to 31 on 2 October after seven more patients were found dead.
The deceased patients were suffering from snake bites, gastric, kidney and heart diseases. Four of the child patients were in terminal stages, reports said.
Opposition Congress party chief Mallikarjun Kharge wrote in Hindi on X: “It is said that these patients died due to lack of medicines and treatment. A similar incident took place in a government hospital in Thane in August 2023 in which 18 patients lost their lives.”
“The news of death of 24 people, including 12 newborns, due to shortage of medicines in the government hospital of Nanded, Maharashtra is extremely sad,” wrote Rahul Gandhi, a lawmaker from Indian National Congress.
However, a hospital official tried to downplay the situation by alleging that most patients were brought in in a critical condition from the neighbouring districts.
“We are the sole tertiary-care hospital in the district and we often receive patients in critical condition,” said superintendent SR Wakode.
Mr Wakode denied that the hospital was understaffed or that there was a shortage of medicines.
The hospital claimed that essential medicines were available at the institution and it had enough funding. "Other patients are being treated as necessary," the hospital added, according to NDTV.
A three-member expert committee has been formed to probe the incident and submit a report by 1pm (local time) on Wednesday, said Dilip Mhaiseka, director of medical education and research, Maharashtra.
State chief minister Eknath Sinhde said the deaths were "unfortunate" and promised a thorough investigation into the incident as the opposition parties criticised the state government over the condition of public health facilities.
"The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government spends thousands of crores of rupees on its publicity, but there is no money for medicines for children," Mr Gandhi alleged, hitting out at prime minister Narendra Modi's ruling party.
Earlier in August, 18 patients died in 24 hours at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Hospital in Kalwa in Thane city.