In what is developing into a medical disaster in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur, at least 60 children have died over the last five days at the state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital after supply of oxygen cylinders to the hospital was disrupted, according to reports.
Gorakhpur district magistrate Rajeev Rautela confirmed that there was a shortage of liquid oxygen at the medical college and that due to non-payment of Rs 70 lakh, the vendor supplying oxygen had stopped the supply. However, he said that the college principal had informed him that alternative arrangements were available for emergency use.
Rautela also said that a payment of Rs 35 lakh has been made to the vendor, and that he had been requested not to disrupt the oxygen supply.
A letter addressed to the hospital chief and written by the oxygen supply vendor, Pushpa Sales Pvt Ltd, suggests that an outstanding payment of Rs 63,65,702 was the reason behind the disruption of the oxygen supply.
"We are informing you beforehand that the INOX company (the manufacturer of the oxygen cylinders) has informed us (it) will not supply gas for the cylinders in the future to avoid financial losses," the letter read.
The incident occurred at Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's parliamentary constituency within two days of a review meeting. While the administration acknowledged the oxygen supply was halted, it denied that this was the reason behind the deaths, The Telegraph reported. The Telegraph report also said that the vendor had stopped the oxygen supply on Wednesday evening — shortly after Adityanath's afternoon visit to inaugurate a new ICU at the hospital — because of the unpaid bills.
According to reports, the hospital's doctors and paramedical staff has not been paid since February because of an unexplained shortage of funds.
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government has denied media reports that more than 30 children have died at the hospital due to lack of oxygen.
A statement issued by the state Information Department termed reports shown by "some TV channels as misleading" and that the District Magistrate was personally stationed at the medical college to keep a vigil on the situation emanating out of the death of seven patients on Friday due to "different medical reasons".
The Uttar Pradesh government on Friday night ordered a magisterial probe. The probe will be finished in 24 hours and a detailed report submitted, said Chief Secretary Rajeev Kumar, who also put the number of deaths at seven. He also ruled out the possibility of oxygen shortage being the reason behind the deaths.
State health minister Siddarth Nath Singh told TV channels that "a lot of people come suffering from high fever and if they don't get treatment, it may result in death".
With inputs from IANS
Published Date: Aug 12, 2017 10:58 am | Updated Date: Aug 13, 2017 12:37 pm